If the federal government shuts down next week, DC Mayor Vince Gray is preparing a defiant plan to keep local services operating by declaring all city employees "essential," and thus immune from a furlough. And now he can do it in style.
Josh Burch, a DC statehood activist, is taking advantage of a potential shutdown by whipping up T-shirts reading "I am essential and so is statehood" alongside a map of the District on a red background. Burch hopes to fabricate and distribute the shirts by Tuesday, when, barring a last-minute deal by Congress to keep federal spending going, the government will be forced to close its non-essential services. With its budget subject to federal oversight, the District would technically be required to shutter all of its non-essential services, too.
Burch, who is taking orders on what he says is a very limited run, says the shirts aren't just a message about the shutdown, they also hammer the statehood message. "This is a message to all of us as District citizens, we’re all essential and we all should be treated equally with our neighbors in the 50 states," he says.
As noted earlier this week, Gray's declaration that all DC government employees are essential personnel could put the District in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act, a federal law designed to prevent the spending of unappropriated funds. Gray sent a letter yesterday to the White House Office of Management and Budget asking for guidance on the decision, but has yet to hear back, he said at a press conference today.
Nobody has ever been prosecuted, let alone convicted, in the 129-year history of the Anti-Deficiency Act, though DC Attorney General Irv Nathan has warned the city's elected officials that they could be arrested if they keep the government up and running at full-strength in the event of a federal shutdown. But if Gray and members of the Council wind up setting a new precedent, Burch's shirts, at $15 each, could be powerful statements in booking photos.
And Burch's design is also better-looking than any of these sequestration T-shirts that popped up earlier this year.