The heart of the federal regulatory apparatus-- The Federal Register--hasn't missed an issue in its 46 years and it apparently won't miss a day this week--except for Thanksgiving, of course.
John Byrne, director of the Federal Register, said material for today's Register was sent to the Government Printing Office last Friday, and the five- day-a-week fix for regulatory junkies will be out today on schedule.
Had the federal government's funding crisis continued into today, the Register probably would not have published on Wednesday, though. Officials of the Government Printing Office said they would not have gone ahead and printed materials submitted Monday morning because while the GPO presses were still running (it's covered by the congressional appropriations), it wouldn't have been able to bill the agencies the $408 per page they pay for their insertions.
Material submitted to the Register Monday afternoon generally is delivered to GPO Tuesday for the Thursday edition. That schedule won't be fouled up because Thursday's a federal holiday.
After 73 "non-essential" staffers at the Register were ordered home at noon Monday, a skeleton crew of 13 wrestled with the legal questions that might have evolved if some of the documents that were in their hands didn't get into print on schedule.
"The legal problems have never been encountered before," said Martha Girard, director of executive agencies liaison.
The Register's legal staff huddled with Justice Department officials through the lunch hour and into the afternoon to make sure they would not be violating one law while trying to meet the legal requirement to shut down the agency.
"Because the material has been available for public inspection since 8:45 a.m. this Monday morning, there may be a sound legal basis for not being required to publish the notices Tuesday," Girard said just after noon. Later in the day, Byrne said the decision had been made to keep the Registers coming.
Although there have been fears in the past that a particular edition wouldn't get out the next day, it usually was because too few editors or production personnel could get to work in a major snowstorm. Byrne and Fred Emery, who served as head of the Federal Register for almost a decade some years ago, both agreed that the Register has never missed a day since it first came out in 1935.
Despite the shutdown order, the Register's "Dial-A-Reg" recording of highlights of today's Register remained plugged in and available to callers through the afternoon, including its message that documents were available for public inspection at the Register's office.