Democratic senator seeks tally of shutdown cost

Senator Mark R. Warner of Virginia said Wednesday he wants to find ways “to better understand”  the closure’s impact.
J. Scott Applewhite /Associated Press
Senator Mark R. Warner of Virginia said Wednesday he wants to find ways “to better understand” the closure’s impact.

WASHINGTON — A Democratic senator from one of the states hit hardest by the recent government shutdown has called on Congress’ investigative arm to calculate the economic and fiscal effects of the 16-day interruption of federal operations.

Senator Mark R. Warner of Virginia, chairman the Senate Budget Committee’s Government Performance Task Force, released a letter to the Government Accountability Office last week asking the agency to quantify how the lapse in appropriations affected the overall US economy, the federal workforce, state and local governments, contractors, and federal revenue.

‘‘I heard from countless federal employees and small businesses across the Commonwealth of Virginia who faced undue hardship for no good reason due to the 16-day shutdown,’’ Warner said in the letter, adding that the best way to prevent another closure is to ‘‘better understand how this irresponsible action fully impacted our economy.’’


President Obama’s chief economic adviser said last week that the shutdown trimmed one-quarter of a percentage point from the nation’s fourth-quarter economic growth, but the administration has yet to release hard numbers on how much stopping and starting operations cost the government.

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Economists and industry groups have issued some cost estimates. Ratings agencies Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Analytics said the shutdown cost the economy at least $23 billion in lost output, while the US Travel Association said the nation missed out on $2.4 billion in travel spending.

Virginia is one of four states with more than 100,000 federal employees. (The others are Maryland, California, and Texas.)

Federal workers will receive back pay for the time they went without wages during the shutdown, because of a provision in the deal that ended Congress’ budget standoff.

Furloughed contractor employees will not receive retroactive compensation under the legislation.


Firm’s background checks contested in US lawsuit


WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is stepping into a lawsuit against the company that handled background checks of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis.

The lawsuit alleges that the company, United States Investigations Services, engaged in a practice known at the company as ‘‘dumping’’ — failing to perform quality control reviews on background investigations as a contractor for the White House Office of Personnel Management.

The firm dominates the background check industry, taking in $195 million in government payments last year for handling more than 45 percent of the government’s background checks.

A whistle-blower who is a former employee of the company is suing on behalf of the government, and the Justice Department is joining the case.

The company was involved in a background investigation of Snowden in 2011 and one of Alexis in 2007, but those particular jobs don’t figure in the lawsuit. Personnel Management says it believes that the file on Alexis was complete and in compliance with all investigative standards.


‘‘The behavior by a small number of employees alleged in the complaint is completely inconsistent with our company values, culture and tradition of outstanding service to our government customers,’’ the company said in a statement.


Joe Manchin says he’ll back measure protecting gays

WASHINGTON — Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat from West Virginia, said Wednesday that he would vote for a nondiscrimination bill that protects gay men, lesbians, and transgender people, putting the measure within one vote of gaining the support it needs to overcome a filibuster.

Manchin was the only Democrat who had not signaled how he would vote. His support means that all 55 members of the Democratic majority are expected to get behind the bill, which has languished in various forms in Congress for nearly 40 years.