A federal judge on Tuesday denied the National Treasury Employees Union’s (NTEU) request for an immediate temporary restraining order that the administration stop spending money that Congress has not yet appropriated. The next hearing in the case for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for Jan. 31.
The lawsuit, filed Jan. 9, alleges that the Antideficiency Act violates the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution, which does not allow the government to obligate funds that have not been appropriated by Congress.
“At best it would create chaos and confusion,” U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said from the bench Tuesday, as reported by Courthouse News Service. “At worst, it could be catastrophic.”
The report stated that while Leon acknowledged the difficult position in which the shutdown has placed federal workers, he said that blocking the government from forcing employees to come in without pay could cause major disruptions to crucial government operations.
“While we are disappointed that the judge did not take immediate action, we look forward to continuing our argument that the administration cannot require more and more employees to report to work without pay,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon.
The National Treasury Employees Union represents about 70,000 IRS workers around the country, most of whom have been furloughed since Dec. 22, without pay.
According to NTEU, under the IRS’ non-filing season shutdown plan that has been in place for more than three weeks, 88 percent of its 80,000 employees were sent home without pay. Under the new filing season plan released Tuesday, 46,052 employees will be back on the job starting this week. Under the new plan, 42.6 percent of the workforce remains furloughed.
“There is no doubt the IRS needs to get ready for the 2019 filing season that starts Jan. 28, and IRS employees want to work. But the hard, cold reality is that they’ve already missed a paycheck and soon they’ll be asked to work for free for as long as the shutdown lasts,” said Reardon. “This shutdown cannot go on. The government has important services to deliver and it needs its full workforce back on the job, with pay, as soon as possible.”