As Andrew mentioned in his 2010 post, Our Hours Thanks to 2 U.S.C. 138, because of this law, if Congress is in session during a blizzard someone must come in to provide coverage in the Law Library Reading Room. Since I have been one of the staff members who helps provide coverage during bad weather over the past few years, Andrew suggested I should share some of my experiences.
I joined the Law Library in 2006 and my first experience of providing coverage during bad weather came on February 13, 2007. Following the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) guidance, the Library of Congress shut down at 2 p.m. to allow government employees to get home ahead of an incoming storm. The House of Representatives was busy debating H. Con. Res. 63, the Iraq War Policy resolution. H. Res. 157 set the terms of the debate for the H. Con. Res. 63, and provided that the House could stay in session debating the concurrent resolution until midnight on February 13 and 14th. I was already scheduled to work the evening shift, 5-9:30 p.m. but the early government shutdown meant I had to begin working on the desk at 2p.m. when we closed to all but Congressional requests. The House adjourned at 11:35 p.m and I skated to a friend’s home for the night.
Of course, the snowday I remember most clearly was Saturday, December 19, 2009 – the first of the big snow storms which marked the 2009-2010 winter in Washington, D.C. We were expecting bad weather and when the Senate adjourned at 6:52 p.m. that Friday, they set the meeting time for Saturday at 6:45 a.m. I was already scheduled to work that Saturday, so I accepted the assignment to get up extra early so we could provide coverage. I do not think I will ever forget that walk to work – it was dark, the snow was coming down heavily, the wind was blowing, but most egregiously of all – none of the local coffee shops were scheduled to be open before 7 a.m.! Thankfully, my former colleague Mark Strattner came in to work that day so I could go out and forage for food. Meanwhile, after a number of early votes, the Senate was in session until 5:34 p.m. while the text of H.R. 3590, as amended, was being read. The Senate continued to debate the proposed health care law during the next few days while I, Jim Martin and my former colleague John Cannan, walked, waded or otherwise plowed our way in to work. Although the snow was cleared by Christmas Eve, Jim and I reported to work by 6:15a.m. that day so we could provide coverage for the Senate session beginning at 6:30a.m. The Senate was coming in early to vote on the passage of H.R. 3590 as well as an increase in the debt ceiling, H.R. 4314.
Congress continued to be in session throughout the two subsequent snowstorms in February 2010: popularly known as Snowmageddon and Snoverkill. Our former colleague, Christine Sellers also joined our crew in providing coverage. There have been other weather related government shutdowns since that historic winter, but I confess I heaved a great sigh of relief last Thursday when the government was shut down and Congress was not in session. For once, I could devote a snowday to proper activities of cleaning the closets and baking.