OPM Sample Letters to Creditors During Furlough Have Been Around At Least Since 2013

The sample letters to creditors issued by OPM is available here.
Or click Sample Letters for Creditors, Mortgage Companies and Landlords (Word file) [85.5 KB]

We understand that the OPM sample letters to creditors during the furlough are actually driving some of our readers “insane.” This blogpost is for you. The first Wayback Machine capture of opm.gov was January 23, 2013. You will note that the website does not include sample letters to creditors. But there was a shutdown on Tuesday, October 1, 2013, which lasted for 16 days. A December 31, 2013 capture of opm.gov includes a longer Furlough Guidance including Sample Letters for Creditors, Mortgage Companies and Landlords (Word file) [49.87 KB]. The four-page document includes a cover page titled, “Sample Letters”, and three temple template letters to creditor, mortgage company, and landlord.

In December 2016, OPM similarly had undated issued a Sample Letters for Creditors, Mortgage Companies and Landlords (Word file) [85.5 KB] online. This document includes basically identical sample letters from 2013. The sample letters issued by OPM on December 27, right to that note about consulting “your personal attorney” is identical to the 2013 and 2016 versions. There were other government shutdowns prior to 2013, but the Wayback Machine does not include any opm.gov archive before 2013. It is possible that these letters existed prior to 2013 and they were just not archived online or they may have been created first in 2013 during the October 2013 shutdown to assist federal employees who encountered problems with creditors, mortgage companies, and landlords during a two-week shutdown. If you were at OPM or OMB and was nerdy enough to follow this in 2013, let us know.

OPM’s current version of the sample letters, although not marked as an update in the OPM website, removed the reference to a “personal attorney” and now just says “Following are sample letters that you may use as a guide when working with your creditors.  OPM is not able to provide legal advice to individual employees.”  This version is still four pages long but, it appears that OPM had also removed the last letter, the “Sample Letter to Landlord” and page 4 is now just an empty page. The Landlord sample letter includes the item about “the possibility of trading my services to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments” which garnered a lot of attention on social media.

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Trump Threat: Cutoff Aid to Central America’s Northern Triangle

In October 2018, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) notes the following about the “northern triangle”:

“Instability in Central America is one of the most pressing
challenges for U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere.
Several nations—particularly El Salvador, Guatemala, and
Honduras in the “northern triangle” of Central America—
are struggling with widespread insecurity, fragile political
and judicial systems, and high levels of poverty and
unemployment.
[…]
On October 22, 2018, President Trump said he intends to
cut off, or substantially reduce, aid to the northern triangle
countries. He has significant discretion to do so with funds
appropriated in FY2018, since Congress designated “up to”
$615 million for the Central America strategy, effectively
placing a ceiling on aid but no floor. The Consolidated
Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141), also empowers
the Secretary of State to suspend and reprogram some aid if
he determines the northern triangle governments have made
“insufficient progress” in addressing various legislative
conditions.
[…]
Congress has placed strict conditions on assistance to the
northern triangle in an attempt to bolster political will in the
region and ensure foreign aid is used as effectively as
possible. According to the Consolidated Appropriations
Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141),

 25% of assistance for the central governments of El
Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras must be withheld
until the Secretary of State certifies that the
governments are informing their citizens of the dangers
of irregular migration, combating human smuggling and
trafficking, improving border security, and cooperating
with the United States to receive and reintegrate
repatriated citizens who do not qualify for asylum.

 Another 50% must be withheld until the Secretary of
State certifies that the governments are addressing 12
other concerns, including combating corruption;
countering gangs and organized crime; increasing
government revenues; supporting programs to reduce
poverty and promote equitable growth; and protecting
the rights of journalists, political opposition parties, and
human rights defenders to operate without interference.

The State Department certified that all three countries met
both sets of conditions in FY2016 and FY2017. For
FY2018, it has issued certifications for all three countries
regarding the first set of conditions but not the second set.

Read more: U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America: An Overview, October 2018 (PDF)

CRS R44812: U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America: Policy Issues for Congress 2017 (PDF)

Secretary of State Statistics: Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter

Prior to Rex Tillerson, Senate votes confirming the secretary of state have been bipartisan. Vance, Christopher, and Powell all had voice votes. Baker and Albright had 99-0 votes. Rice had 85-13. All the rest had at least 90+ votes in the Senate until Tillerson who got 56-43, the lowest confirmation vote recorded going back to the Carter years. The current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the rank with the second lowest votes at 57-42. On January 23, 2017, he was previously confirmed CIA Director by the Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 66 – 32

 
Nomination Announced Hearings Received Confirmed Votes
TRUMP          
Michael
Pompeo

March 13,
2018

April 12,
2018 
 March 20,
2018
April 26,
2018 
 57-42
No. 84

Rex
Tillerson

December
13, 2016
January 11, 2017 January 20,
2017
February 1, 2017 56-43 
No. 36
OBAMA          
John
Kerry
December
21, 2012
January 24, 2013 January 22, 2013 January 29, 2013 94-3 
No. 5
Hillary
Clinton
December 1, 2008 January 13, 2009 January 20, 2009 January 21, 2009 94-2 
No. 6
BUSH          
Condi
Rice
November
16, 2004 
 January
18-19, 2005
January 4,
2005
January 26, 2005 85-13 
No. 2
Colin
Powell
 December
16, 2000
January 17, 2001 January 20, 2001 January 20, 2001 Voice Vote
           

Source: U.S. Senate Cabinet Statistics (click on image for larger view)

This clip of the secretary of state talking about the “rapture” is not new (though we’ve just seen it). It has been around prior to his confirmation earlier this year. Although 10 more senators refused to confirm him as SecState than the year earlier as CIA director, he got one more vote than Tillerson (including seven Democratic votes) and was confirmed as 70th Secretary of State (with the second lowest votes at confirmation).

This video appears to be from his 2015 appearance at the “God and Country Rally” at Wichita’s Summit Church in June 2015.