Democrats and Republicans Agree: Furloughed Federal Workers Should Get Paid

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 5 2013 1:58 PM

Democrats and Republicans Agree: Furloughed Federal Workers Should Get Paid

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arrives to Capitol Hill as the federal government shut down goes in to its fifth day

Photo by Chris Maddaloni/Getty Images

As the shutdown entered its fifth day Saturday, Republicans and Democrats showed they can come together in a rare moment of bipartisan cooperation—at least when it comes to feel-good measures that really don’t do anything to solve the fundamental conflict. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives unanimously agreed that 800,000 furloughed federal employees should get retroactive pay once the government reopens. The measure is expected to easily clear the Senate and receive President Obama’s signature, but the timing is unclear, notes the Wall Street Journal.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed support for the measure but added that it was “cruel” of the House to pass the measure without voting to reopen the government, reports the Hill. “The House has passed a bill to pay federal furloughed employees, but listen to this, once the government opens,” Reid said. “Well why wouldn’t we do that? … It’s really cruel to tell the workers they’ll get back pay but then not reopen the government.” Never mind that the party constantly railing against government waste wants to pay federal employees for literally not doing anything. Reid pointed out that what the Republicans were doing is giving federal workers a “paid vacation.” The New York Times notes the change in tone by Republicans, pointing out that the same conservatives who once “denigrated” federal workers “as overpaid and underworked” have suddenly changed their tone, characterizing them as “selfless civil servants.”

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Republicans began criticizing Senate Democrats for failing to approve funding that would help other groups affected by the shutdown. "If it's important to ease the pain for [federal employees], what about the vets?" House Majority Leader Rep. Eric I.Cantor said, according to the Washington Post. "Do the Democrats not feel it's important to ease the pain on them?" The House Republicans have adopted a strategy that involves voting for piecemeal legislation to fund a few popular federal agencies. But the Senate has rejected the measures, saying the House needs to pass a clean funding bill to reopen the whole government. For some Democrats, these past few days of Republicans advocating for certain areas of the federal government seemed to be straight out of the Twilight Zone. “It takes serious chutzpah for Republicans to portray themselves as the defenders of N.I.H., parks and other critical services they gutted through sequestration and proposed cutting further for 2014,” pointed out Rep. Nita Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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