December can be the cruelest month for any President. This year, there is the problem of what to do about Syria, Iran and China. How’s the Affordable Care Act going and what is Vice President Joe Biden going to say next?
But one of the toughest calls for the commander in chief is whether to give federal workers some time off around Christmas.
It can be a lose-lose decision for POTUS, either with federal workers or the general public. Especially when Christmas falls in the middle of the week, like this year.
When Christmas falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it is pretty much a no-brainer. Non-emergency feds usually get the day off either the Friday before or the Monday after. Not always, but nearly always.
When Dec. 25 is a Tuesday or Thursday, again the rule of thumb is (usually) that nonessential feds get the Monday before or the Friday after off with pay.
But when Christmas is a Wednesday, as it is this year, it presents special problems. Some political, some logistical. In a year when you’ve had furloughs and shutdowns, do you carry on and give feds some time off? If so, when and how much? Often (but not always) when Christmas is a Wednesday, presidents have given workers a half day off.
In 2009, President Obama gave federal workers four hours off on Christmas Eve when the 25th was a Thursday. But people were expected to report to work, or take annual or use-it-or-lose it leave if they wanted Friday off.
President George W. Bush gave feds Christmas Eve off in 2001 and again in 2007 when Christmas was a Tuesday.
So there is no rule of thumb.
It is during the Christmas season that employees of the U.S. Postal Service are reminded how different they are (in some ways) from their white-collar colleagues. Most postal employees, letter carriers, clerks, mail handlers and other craft employees usually don’t get any extra time off, unless they take it.
For a look at how presidents have dealt with bonus holidays in the past, click here — and keep your fingers crossed:
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