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Can you hear me now? Maybe not if there's a shutdown

From NBC's Kevin Hurd
One issue that is ringing louder now than in any past government shutdown is what to do about federal employees using digital communication while on furlough.

As NBC's Pete Williams pointed out in First Read earlier, it is illegal for non-essential federal workers to volunteer to work during a shutdown. The Washington Post adds, "in the modern era, that means they can't use voicemail or e-mail" and "if a government shutdown comes to pass...tens of thousands of federal workers deemed “nonessential” will be forced to give up their BlackBerrys."

Giving up a device that gives you instant access to emails, calendar, documents, and phone numbers creates a hurdle for employees who have come to depend upon it. Some federal workers are looking for a work-around to keep connected, The Wall Street Journal reports. That includes trying to re-route e-mail to other devices. It's not clear yet if that would even be allowed.

Still, there might be some hope for those who would struggle with cutting their connection. "In some corners of Capitol Hill, workers are whispering that chiefs of staff may go soft on the rule; they would allow workers to keep their electronic lifelines and just discourage pecking. "I don't think every office is going to put a big bucket out and make you put in your BlackBerry," a Senate Democratic aide told the Wall Street Journal." And "some in Washington say furloughed employees could get away with viewing emails -- but not responding to them."