AUDIO: Blunt speaks on Senate floor 11:31Senator Blunt has not been allowed to keep essential federal workers from being furloughed because of sequester-mandated budget cuts.  So he’s going to try a new approach.

Blunt had proposed an amendment for a resolution continuing federal government funding—with the sequester cuts– through the end of the federal fiscal year September 30th.  Senate leadership has allowed nine amendments to be offered, but not this one. So he’s going to make it a stand alone bill.

Blunt’s main targets are the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service,  air traffic controllers,  and some Homeland Security employees.   He says furlough notices already are going out as the federal government prepares for a possible shutdown when the current continuing funding resolution runs out on March 27th, unless Congress agrees on the new, longer, resolution before then..

Blunt  says his proposal gives the administration flexibility it says it does not have, and mirrors the policies of Presidents Clinton and last year’s recommendations from federal Office of Personnel Management that  sent a memo last year to President Obama on  essential workers who should remain on their jobs while non-essential workers were furloughed during previous government shutdowns or potential shutdowns.

Senate leadership has agreed to let  an amendment blunt co-sponsors with Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor be considered for the resolution.  It focuses only on the Food Safety and Inspection Service, transferring $55 million from existing Department of Agriculture programs to the FSIS to make sure inspectors are not furloughed.   Blunt says the money is necessary to make sure the inspectors are in the plants that process poultry, beef, pork, and eggs every day.  Without themn, he says, 146 such plants in Missouri face closings and layoffs