Citing shutdown, Senator Elizabeth Warren sends constituents to voice mail

WASHINGTON — Despite the government shutdown, Bay Staters seeking to contact most members of the Massachusetts delegation in Washington can still reach a staffer by phone, with the exception of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office .

Warren, a Democrat, determined that having staff answer phone calls is not an essential part of her office’s job during a shutdown, leaving constituents to go to voice mail when they call to give their opinion or to seek services or assistance.

“Unfortunately due to the government shutdown our front office is closed. We will be checking voice mail as frequently as possible,” is the automated reply at Warren’s Washington office.

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Similar messages greet those who call her in-state offices. The voice mail from her Boston office adds that her office will “look forward to resuming normal operation.” And a message on her website says people seeking assistance will be out of luck during the shutdown.

“Individual staff may not have access to e-mail or voice mail, and letters and e-mails sent to my office will not receive a response until the end of the shutdown,’’ Warren says on her website. “Constituent caseworkers in my office will not be able to assist you at this time, but they will resume work on cases after the conclusion of the shutdown.’’

Every other member of the state delegation — including Warren’s Senate colleague, Edward Markey — has someone answering their Washington office phones, according to a Globe survey on Wednesday.

Markey furloughed some aides in his Washington and Boston offices and closed his Fall River and Springfield offices, a spokesman said. He also halted plans to hire new staff.

Members of Congress decide how their offices are affected by a shutdown. They decide which staffers are essential, and which ones will stay home.

Warren spokesman Matt Cournoyer said the senator was following the rules: “Senator Warren’s office has discontinued certain office functions in order to ensure compliance with the constitutional and statutory legal constraints that limit permissible Senate office activities during a government shutdown.”

Furloughed staff from congressional offices will join the more than 800,000 employees who have been out of work since Tuesday because the House and Senate have not passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government.

Congressional aides who continue working are expected to get back pay once an appropriation or continuing resolution is passed. Furloughed staffers, on the other hand, are not guaranteed pay for the time they are shut out of work. That will be up to Congress to decide once the government is up and running again.

Representative Richard Neal’s offices are fully staffed and running “business as usual,” spokesman William Tranghese said.

“I will continue to provide the people of Massachusetts with the constituent services that they expect and deserve,” the Springfield Democrat said.

Even so, delivering on constituent requests may not be easy. Agencies where they often channel requests are mostly shut, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Internal Revenue Service.

Representative John F. Tierney, a Salem Democrat, has furloughed some staffers, but his office remains open.

“We have contacted state and municipal elected representatives in all communities across the district to ensure any questions they had, or may have, could be fielded by me or an appropriate department or agency,” Tierney said.

Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III furloughed one employee. But the Brookline Democrat’s office will continue to work for constituents “from assisting seniors with Medicare-related issues, to helping veterans access health care and benefits,” spokesman Dan Black said.

While he would not confirm if any employees were furloughed, Representative William Keating, Democrat of Bourne, said his offices saw an increase in casework that reflects the shutdown’s effects on individuals and businesses. “My staff and I will continue to assist them in any way we can.”

Democratic Representatives James McGovern of Worcester and Michael Capuano of Somerville both said they have no plans to furlough staff.

McGovern said his office has been inundated with calls that require staff assistance.

“I’m not furloughing,” Capuano said. “I think it’s insulting.”

Representative Niki Tsongas of Lowell will also keep her entire staff working. Tsongas, who reduced her staff because of automatic budget cuts called sequestration, said she sees no room for further reductions.

“We’re operating with fewer people doing more work,” said Tsongas, who said she spent Tuesday meeting with various groups of constituents. “They’re still in need, too.”