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Who had the worst week in Washington? Federal workers.

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Woe to the federal worker.

As Republicans and Democrats in Congress traded charges over the past few days about who was to blame for the threat of a government shutdown and who was responsible for fixing the mess, hundreds of thousands of federal employees sat on their hands.

Some basic questions about a shutdown — such as whether workers would be paid for the time they missed — were up in the air. More clear was that they could take neither paid leave nor paid vacation. And, in the Fix’s biggest nightmare, nonessential government employees would have been forced to give up their BlackBerrys. Shudder.

(And can’t we come up with a better description for these folks than “nonessential”? Brutal.)

Federal workers were already suffering plenty. They haven’t had a working annual budget since 2010, making it impossible to do any sort of long-term planning. They are in the midst of a two-year pay freeze — implemented by President Obama in the immediate aftermath of the midterm elections — and will almost certainly watch their pay and benefits continue to be used as a political football heading into the 2012 presidential campaign.

All of that, of course, is down the line. Meanwhile, federal workers could do nothing but wait for the two warring parties to find common ground. Which they did at the eleventh hour — literally — Friday night.

The federal worker, for being caught in the middle of a partisan battle, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Updated 11:38 p.m.

Have a candidate for Worst Week in Washington?
E-mail Chris Cillizza at chris.cillizza@wpost.com.

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