Bi­par­ti­san ef­fort aims to in­crease pres­sure on Se­nate

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The House on Thurs­day passed bills to pay Na­tional Guard troops and fund Vet­er­ans Af­fairs ser­vices dur­ing the gov­ern­ment shut­down and sig­naled that it would take up a bill to make sure all fed­eral em­ploy­ees — in­clud­ing those on fur­lough — even­tu­ally get paid.

With the shut­down ex­tended into a third day and show­ing few signs of end­ing, House Repub­li­cans have set­tled on a strat­egy of try­ing to blunt some of the high-pro­file ill ef­fects of the stop­page and to win some bi­par­ti­san votes, hop­ing that will give them the up­per hand in the bat­tle with Se­nate Democrats.

The lat­est move in­volves 10 spend­ing bills to fund Bor­der Pa­trol, the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity and other key ar­eas where safety or se­cu­rity could be dam­aged by the ex­pi­ra­tion of gov­ern­ment fund­ing Tues­day morn­ing.

Top in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials warned Congress on Wed­nes­day that the fur­loughs and shut­down were mak­ing mem­bers of the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity vul­ner­a­ble to be­ing re­cruited by enemy agents.

“We are go­ing to go for­ward with try­ing to ad­dress sit­u­a­tions that are in crit­i­cal stages,” said House Ma­jor­ity Leader Eric Can­tor, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can.

The em­ployee bill in par­tic­u­lar has wide­spread sup­port among Democrats and la­bor unions. They have said work­ers count on pay­checks and shouldn’t be pe­nal­ized for the stale­mate in Wash­ing­ton.

The bill would guar­an­tee that all fed­eral em­ploy­ees get paid even if they were fur­loughed dur­ing the shut­down.

“Fair­ness is the com­pelling rea­son for do­ing this. Th­ese folks didn’t bring this about. They’re try­ing to do their job, they want to come into work ev­ery day,” said Rep. James P. Mo­ran, the Vir­ginia Demo­crat who is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can. Both of them rep­re­sent tens of thou­sands of fed­eral em­ploy­ees.

Fur­loughed em­ploy­ees were paid af­ter the 1995-1996 shut­downs. With­out Mr. Mo­ran’s bill, how­ever, there is no guar­an­tee that would hap­pen this time.

For now, though, the Repub­li­can strat­egy has had lit­tle suc­cess in the Se­nate, de­spite the House ap­proval of bills to fund the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health, the na­tional parks, the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion, ser­vices for vet­er­ans and pay for mil­i­tary re­serve and Na­tional Guard troops.

The vet­er­ans bill passed Tues­day on a 259-157 vote, with 35 Democrats join­ing Repub­li­cans in sup­port, and the mil­i­tary pay bill passed 265-160 with 36 Democrats sid­ing with Repub­li­cans.

But Demo­cratic lead­ers in the Se­nate blocked all four of those bills Thurs­day, main­tain­ing their in­sis­tence that ei­ther the en­tire gov­ern­ment be funded or none of it will be funded.

“I, we, sup­port vet­er­ans and parks and NIH and all th­ese dif­fer­ent el­e­ments of gov­ern­ment that are closed. But we also are not go­ing to choose be­tween vet­er­ans, can­cer re­search, disease con­trol, high­way safety or the FBI,” said Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat.

Mr. Reid has reined in his cham­ber and re­jected ev­ery House Repub­li­can pro­posal, but has of­fered no bills to break the log­jam.

He and fel­low Se­nate Democrats have said they will ac­cept only one so­lu­tion: that the House ap­prove Se­nate-passed leg­is­la­tion that would fund ba­sic gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tions through Nov. 15 at an an­nu­al­ized rate of $986 bil­lion. That bill is known in Wash­ing­ton-speak as a con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion, or “CR.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Demo­crat, said there can be no ne­go­ti­a­tions with Repub­li­cans while the gov­ern­ment is shut down be­cause that would set a bad prece­dent.

“If we were to give in while the gov­ern­ment was shut, to a de­mand, what do you think hap­pens on the debt ceil­ing? What do you think hap­pens when the CR has to be re­newed?” Mr. Schumer said.

Pres­i­dent Obama also tried to in­crease pres­sure on Repub­li­cans while speak­ing at a con­struc­tion com­pany in sub­ur­ban Mary­land.

“The only thing that is keep­ing the gov­ern­ment shut down, the only thing pre­vent­ing peo­ple from go­ing back to work … is that Speaker John Boehner won’t even let the bill get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote be­cause he doesn’t want to anger the ex­trem­ists in his party. That’s all. That’s what this whole thing is about,” Mr. Obama said.

Democrats said the House, if it puts the Se­nate bill to a vote, would pass the leg­is­la­tion with sig­nif­i­cant Repub­li­can sup­port and the cri­sis would end.

Mr. Can­tor coun­tered that it wasn’t clear the bill would pass, though he has re­fused to put it to a test.


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