Just hours before the government may close down, federal employees around the world are waiting to hear if they will have to go to work in the morning. The question of the day in government buildings is which employees will be declared "essential" or "nonessential." Essential employees must show up for work even if the government is closed.
Who is considered essential? Here is a select list: Secret Service agents who protect the President, air traffic controllers who control the nation's airways, and the NIH employees who feed the mice at labs all over the Bethesda, Maryland, campus of the NIH. Yes, lab mice are essential to the national security. Word is still out on Drosophila, yeast, and C. elegans.
As similar uncertainties loom over the federal bureaucracy the ASCB Public Policy staff is keeping a close watch on Capitol Hill. Last Friday, the Public Policy team took part in an off-the-record conference call with a senior staff member from the House Appropriations Committee regarding the potential shutdown.
What will happen at midnight tonight? Your guess is as good as anyone's. You can be sure, however, that the ASCB is on alert, working the phones and juggling remotes from one C-SPAN channel to the next. At this point, we can tell you that the mice will be okay either way.