Obama Issues Last Minute Executive Order to Save Christmas for Federal Employees

Past presidents have granted federal workers a holiday on the day before Christmas.

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Who stole Christmas?

Federal workers are pointing fingers at President Barack Obama. Budget constraints and the looming fiscal cliff appear to be the reason they will be working on Christmas Eve. A petition on the White House's We The People website calling for a day off has reached the threshold of 25,000 signatures needed for official response.

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"Federal employees have had a pay freeze for the past several years," the petition reads. "Giving federal employees an extra holiday... would be a good gesture to improve morale of the federal workforce."

An executive order would grant employees the day off, but the White House has so far not responded to the petition.

Stressed woman sitting at desk and speaking on phone surrounded by Christmas presents, decorations, alarm clock and calculator over dark background.

[PHOTOS: The White House Christmas Decorations.]

This is the first year federal employees of the Obama administration will work a full day on Christmas Eve. Obama gave federal workers a half day off on the day in 2009, and a paid holiday in 2010 because Christmas Day fell on a Saturday. In 2011, Christmas Eve was on a Saturday.

According to the Washington Post, President George W. Bush was generous with the Christmas Eve holiday, granting a full day off to federal employees in 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2008.

Government Executive reports that Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton also gave employees a full day off on Christmas Eve while in office. Reagan allowed supervisors to leave early on Christmas Eve one year, while George H.W. Bush granted a half day in 1990.

UPDATE:

The White House has announced that federal employees will not have to work on Christmas Eve after all.  

In an executive order issued Friday afternoon, President Obama said the only employees who would be required to come in would be “for reasons of national security, defense, or other public need.”

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or reach her at eflock@usnews.com.

    Corrected on : Updated at 1:55 p.m.