Congress likely to give shutdown workers back pay

Associated Press

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., center, accompanied by, from left, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Rep. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a Democratic Progressive Caucus with furloughed federal employees on Capitol Hill in Washington on Friday, where they blamed House Republicans for the government shutdown. 

WASHINGTON (AP) — A partial government shutdown enters its fifth day, with Congress convening for a session that promises no progress in breaking the impasse but will at least offer back pay to furloughed federal workers.

The GOP House is scheduled Saturday to vote on legislation backed by the White House and congressional Democrats that would make sure the 800,000 sidelined government employees would get their pay when the shutdown ends. The Senate is expected to clear it later, even as early as Saturday, for President Barack Obama's signature.

Lawmakers keep replaying the same script on Capitol Hill: House Republicans pass piecemeal bills to reopen popular and politically sensitive programs — on Friday, disaster relief and food aid for the poor — while Democrats insist that the House vote on a straightforward Senate-passed measure to reopen all of government.

"But the far right of the Republican Party won't let Speaker John Boehner give that bill a yes-or-no vote," Obama said in his Saturday radio and Internet address. "Take that vote. Stop this farce. End this shutdown now."

There seemed little chance of that. For one thing, flinching by either side on the shutdown might be seen as weakening one's hand in an even more important fight looming just over the horizon as the combatants in Washington increasingly shifted their focus to a midmonth deadline for averting a first-ever default.

"This isn't some damn game," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said as the White House and Democrats held to their position of agreeing to negotiate only after the government is reopened and the $16.7 trillion debt limit raised. Republicans pointed to a quote in The Wall Street Journal from an anonymous White House official that "we are winning ... It doesn't really matter to us" how long the shutdown lasts.

At issue in the shutdown is a temporary funding measure to keep the government fully open through mid-November or mid-December. More than 100 stopgap continuing resolutions have passed without much difficulty since the last shutdown in 1996. But tea party Republicans, their urgency intensified by the rollout of health insurance marketplaces this month, are demanding concessions in Obama's health care law as their price for the funding legislation, sparking the shutdown impasse with Democrats.

"I was disappointed when certain parts of the federal government were forced to shut down because Senate Democrats refused to make any changes whatsoever to the deeply flawed health care law known as Obamacare," said Texas Sen. John Cornyn in the GOP's weekly address. "Republicans are eager to end the shutdown and move ahead with the fiscal and economic reforms that our country so urgently needs."

Obama has repeatedly said he won't negotiate on the temporary spending bill or upcoming debt limit measure, arguing they should be sent to him free of GOP add-ons. Congress, whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans, routinely sent Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, "clean" stopgap spending bills and debt-limit increases.

"The American people don't get to demand ransom in exchange for doing their job," Obama said in his address. "Neither does Congress."

House Republicans appeared to be shifting their demands, de-emphasizing their previous insistence on defunding the health care overhaul in exchange for re-opening the government. Instead, they ramped up calls for cuts in federal benefit programs and future deficits, items that Boehner has said repeatedly will be part of any talks on debt limit legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other Democrats blocked numerous attempts by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to approve House-passed bills reopening portions of the government. The Texas Republican is a chief architect of the "Defund Obamacare" strategy and met earlier this week with allies in the House and an aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to confer on strategy.

In a lengthy back-and-forth with Reid and other Democrats, Cruz blamed them and the White House for the impasse and accused them of a "my way or the highway" attitude.

But Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., likened the Republican strategy to "smashing a piece of crockery with a hammer, gluing two or three bits back together today, a couple more tomorrow, and two or three more the day after that."

The shutdown led the White House to scrub a presidential trip to Asia, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics delayed its customary monthly report on joblessness as impacts of the partial shutdown spread.

Secretary of State John Kerry, filling in for Obama at an Asian economic summit, warned about the foreign-policy damage caused by the failure of members of Congress to resolved their differences.

"I believe that those standing in the way (of a resolution) need to think long and hard about the message that we send to the world when we can't get our own act together," Kerry told reporters on the sidelines of the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

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Paid vacation

When a person gets their pay but doesn't have to go to work we usually call it a paid vacation. The Republican House should put these people back to work earning their pay. Let the House vote and end the shutdown better yet let them do their job and pass a budget whatever it takes to do it. No budget in 6 years is outrageous.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Repubs coordinated the shutdown way in advance of Oct 1...

Rep. Doug Lamborn was among 80 House conservatives who signed onto a letter late last week saying an autumn government shutdown would be better than funding the new federal government health care law.

Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, said through his spokeswoman Tuesday that his constituents “overwhelmingly” say they don’t want Obamacare and want it de-funded — at any expense.

Some Republicans, including Lamborn, have urged shutting down the government over funding of Obamacare, but House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans are resisting that option. The rest of Colorado’s Republican Reps. Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton did not sign onto the letter.

Gardner, R-Yuma, and Tipton, R-Cortez, do support proposed legislation to prohibit federal money from going to the implementation of Obamacare. Neither Gardner nor Tipton believe in shutting down the government for the cause however.

 's picture

Let them collect unemployment.

Don't give furloughed workers back pay for the time they were not working. Let them go through the same thing as any other laid off worker. They can file for unemployment just the same as someone in the private sector. Federal, state and other government employees shouldn't get any special treatment.

 's picture

Very consistent with the Republicans' "punish the workers"

philosophy. But few private sector workers are laid off because the Board of Directors partially closes the company down for an unknown length of time during which many of the workers continue to do their jobs. Another knee-jerk silver bullet Republican solution to a Republican problem. The Republicans wasted all the money in Bush Administration - adding $6 trillion to the National debt. The Republicans certainly don't want the Democrats to spend more now on the American people because it means they can't spend anymore if they win the Presidency in 2016 without bankrupting the country.
But the comment above is a good out for the Republicans - have the Federal workers do the work for no pay. Solve the budget problem instantly. That's it, the Republicans can add this to their 2016 - the solution to big government - the return to slavery.

 's picture

Who said anything about

Who said anything about working for no pay? I said don't pay people who aren't working. There are thousands of federal employees staying home. Why should they be paid for that? That is what unemployment insurance is about, temporary lay-offs.
Another news flash for you: The Bush administration ended in January 2009, almost 5 years ago. It has nothing to do with the current government shutdown. I didn't like Bush's big spending and I dislike Obama's bigger spending even more.
In the private sector it is common for companies to lay off some workers while the rest keep doing their jobs. Sometimes it's seasonal slowdowns, other times one branch of a company is shut down and sometimes it is because a company loses a bid or contract and nobody knows when the next project will come up to bid.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I agree 100% with you David.

I agree 100% with you David. We see this behavior, there is no wonder why that government shutdowns cost the taxpayer’s money.


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