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Most Federal Workers Get Day After Christmas Off


President Obama has used his executive authority to make some sweeping changes in policy recently on immigration and also diplomatic relations with Cuba. And with the stroke of his pen, he told federal employees that they didn't have to go to work today. NPR's Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Is this just the latest example of executive overreach from an imperial president?

LAURA POOL: I would prefer not to comment on that.

KEITH: Laura Pool knows a no-win question when she hears one. Pool is a federal worker and says she was excited when she heard about President Obama's executive order.

POOL: An extra day off is always a nice thing.

KEITH: She was already planning to take today as a vacation day, but the executive order made it possible for Pool to take Christmas Eve off as well - five day weekend. Based on a random sample of people approached outside of federal office buildings, it seems virtually no one was planning to work on the 26 anyway. Vicki Blackman is among them.

VICKI BLACKMAN: It's almost like a ghost town the day after Christmas anyway, so we're probably saving money by doing that.

KEITH: Actually, according to White House budget office, the cost is $660 million for a day of payroll and holiday premium pay costs. Ralph Smith is the founder of FedSmith, a website for federal workers.

RALPH SMITH: President Obama is hardly unique in issuing an executive order. Actually, Franklin Roosevelt issued one back in 1940.

KEITH: That was for Christmas Eve - giving federal workers a day off, if the 26 falls on a Friday, dates back to 1952 and Harry Truman. It's been a tradition ever since and Smith says federal employees have gotten used to it.

SMITH: I wouldn't say they expect it, but they certainly hope for it. Honestly, we got a couple of queries back in April asking us if the president was going to give them the day after Christmas off.

KEITH: As for January 2, which also falls on a Friday this year, there's no similar tradition. It will be a regular workday for the federal workforce. Tamara Keith, NPR News.

GREENE: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.