Note: This story was last updated at 5:22 p.m.
The federal government remains shut down over a funding dispute, but the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Friday morning that would fully fund the Y-12 National Security Complex and other security functions, Congressman Chuck Fleischmann said.
Fleischmann, a Tennessee Republican whose district includes Oak Ridge, called it a matter of national security. Y-12 is one of the nation’s nuclear weapons plants, but it started an “orderly shutdown” on Monday because Congress has failed to pass a spending bill in the fiscal year that started Oct. 1.
Fleischmann expressed concern about the shutdown in a speech on the House floor.
“We can not let this happen,” said the second-term congressman from Ooltewah. “Not as Republicans, not as Democrats. Let’s put aside the partisan rhetoric. Let’s keep them working.”
The congressional funding feud centers on a dispute over whether to include in a spending bill a one-year delay in the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, which critics have labeled “Obamacare,” as well as a repeal of a medical device tax meant to help pay for the health care law. President Barack Obama and the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, want a “clean” spending bill with no changes to the law, while the Republican-controlled House has supported the delay in the individual mandate and the tax repeal. So far, neither side has been willing to change its position.
It’s not clear that the Senate will consider this latest House bill, which would temporarily fund the National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency that oversees Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Y-12 National Security Complex, among others, Alburquerque Business First reported. The vote was 248-176.
The bill would temporarily fund the agency through Dec. 15.
It was the latest GOP bill aimed at reviving popular programs—and the latest to face swift demise in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid has rejected nearly all bills that fall short of fully reopening the government, the Associated Press reported.
At Y-12, a shutdown could affect several thousand workers. B&W Y-12, the plant’s managing and operating contractor, had 4,813 employees at the end of September, and Y-12 usually has about 2,000 subcontractors at any given time.
B&W Y-12 General Manager Chuck Spencer has said the contractor hopes furloughs will be averted, or that they will be short-lived. Some workers would presumably not be affected, primarily those in jobs related to ensuring the safety of human lives and protecting government property (the U.S. Department of Energy has labeled this “guns, guards, and gates”).
The middle of October appears to be crucial decision point for many federal government agencies and contractors. Many have been relying on carryover funds since the Sept. 30 end of the last fiscal year. The middle of October is also about the same time Congress and the president are expected to try to resolve a second dispute over raising the nation’s debt limit.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See this DOE guide for more information on the government shutdown and how it affects the department.