Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 25, 2015

Back Pay for Furloughed Workers Hits Snag in Senate (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:02 p.m. | Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn told reporters Monday that it would be “premature” to move on a standalone guarantee of back pay for federal workers without addressing other elements of the government shutdown.

“It think it’s really premature to be dealing with that until we deal with the underlying problem,” the Texas Republican said. “We’ve offered a number of bills to try to alleviate some of the hardship, and … they’ve been swatted down out of hand.”

The GOP-led House has passed a number of narrowly-tailored stopgap spending bills that would restore funding for an assortment of federal government programs, including the National Institutes of Health and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

President Barack Obama visited FEMA on Monday.

“Thanks to the folks at FEMA, we were prepared for what might have happened down in Florida. Nevertheless, the government is still shut down, services are still interrupted and hundreds of thousands of hardworking public servants, including many FEMA professionals, are still furloughed without pay, or they’re not allowed to work at all,” Obama said.

Cornyn indicated that Republicans should be allowed to offer amendments to the measure regarding retroactive pay for furloughed federal employees, which the House passed Saturday, 407-0, as part of the larger strategy. Such a move could give GOP senators a chance to try to force votes on expanding the scope of the measure.

“I think if Sen. [Harry] Reid wants to bring that to the floor, he should bring it to the floor, and we should, it should be subject to the normal legislative process,” Cornyn said. “We ought to legislate.”

Cornyn said that he did not expect the majority leader to call the measure up, however.

Advised of the procedural situation, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins expressed disappointment that the federal worker back pay measure might not be expedited.

“I think that’s unfortunate. I think it would be very reassuring to constituents across the country who are out of work through no fault of their own if they at least knew that they were going to receive retroactive pay, since what this represents is not a failure on their part, but a failure on the part of Congress and the White House,” Collins said.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in his opening remarks on the Senate floor Monday that the chamber should move on the small continuing resolutions, a path Democrats have rejected, saying it would amount to cherry-picking which agencies get funded.

“There’s actually a fair amount of agreement among Republicans and Democrats over there that lawmakers have a duty and responsibility that rises above the politics of the moment to fund things like veterans, cancer trials, the National Guard and Reservists in every state,” the Kentucky Republican said.

  • Samsara

    GOP blocks back pay for federal workers. The rest is BS.

    • Layla

      Everything coming from this administration is BS.

  • MrSmith

    Funny way of saying Harry Reid is blocking the back-pay unless Republicans help him prevent his members from voting on the House bills…

    But we know what you meant Neils.

    • 1775concord

      ??? Harry Reid decides what is to be brought to the floor. The House just unanimously passed the back pay bill. Please explain your stance and reasoning.

      • MrSmith

        In the course of debating that bill the other House minibills can be put to a recorded vote. Unless the Republicans agree to special rules blocking that.
        So Harry tabled the bill- which doesn’t require a recorded vote.

  • Samsara

    Look folks, it is all very simple, the GOP wants to kill Obama Care. They lost at the ballot box, and now they have ground the whole government to a haul until they get their way. Any concession the Democrats make will be twisted and used as another attempt to somehow avoid blame for the tactic Ted Cruz chose to force on them.

    Ted Cruz thinks they are winning. He is wrong.

    He is leading the GOP in a race to the bottom.

    • Fred Chittenden

      Ted Cruz and many in the new GOP are talking issues, meanwhile the Ocrats are having issues.

      When this is all settled, the Ocrats will still be wearing the albatross of the Barrycade, Oconomy and Ocare issues, while the new GOP will have got the favorable attention of many who’ve never heard the old guard GOP LOSERship say much coherent about anything…

      While the mantra of the Ocrats and PRESSSident is this is all going against the GOP, during the Clinton shutdown, the GOP generally gained in the next election and got welfare reform thru AND budgets under control. Something similar is likely to happen this time…

      • MrSmith

        I don’t think the Senate Dems will continue to the bitter end.
        Blocking WIC funding -which is running out now- is crazy!
        The first veteran, cancer patient, etc who dies because they’re blocking funds…
        That’ll be the end of their barricade of the House bills and they’ve bet everything on maintaining that barricade.

        • kernals

          The senate already passed a clean CR, it’s time for the house to do the same

          • GoldBeachBiker

            It is nigh on to impossible for democrats to pass anything “CLEAN.” DemoCrapCare is in its infancy of dying a slow agonizing death.

        • Layla

          You think the Swift Boat vets did a job on candidate Kerry, you ain’t seen nothing yet if the regime continues down this path. These people all took AND KEPT their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution and they will die doing just that.

      • EliseR

        Don’t you speak English, Fred?

      • Layla

        The administration and the Democrats have now decided it is more fun to pick on sick children at NIH and 90 year old vets.. If you believe you are impressing the American people, you are too far gone to save as a party.

      • Art Bagnall

        ALERT: POSTER above (Fred Shittenden) TRYING TO USE ESPERANTO

        Do you invent words for a living? You must be about ready to starve to death.
        The GOP didn’t generally gain in the 1996 elections, dipwad. I think they did add a couple of Senate seats but I can’t get on Wikipedia from here.
        You could have, however, and then you wouldn’t look so stupid.
        y’all lost the last election, dimwit. Get over it.

    • Layla

      Really? Even Jon Stewart knows this is about the right of the American people to receive the same optional one year waiver the administration has granted to business and the unions to prevent them from being fined the first year. That will not stop anyone from signing up, but will protect those who cannot afford either the premiums or the fine for the first year.

      What the hell is your problem with this?

  • BarackMcBush

    The GOP are *ssholes again, blocking back pay for people that work a lot harder for a lot less. All “Essential” personnel (including security) should call in sick.. (and be sure to leak that to the press), Then all the people off their “meds” have at it!..
    John Boehner could open up the government back up with 1 clean cr vote!

    • imwithstuoopid

      Nonsense, who works harder, who’s paid less? Search around “they” have been better paid (buy 15%+) than the private sector, their benefits out strip the average John Doe by a large margin, especially when doing comparable jobs.

      How many of the average private sector employees get back pay when they are furloughed, none that’s how many.

      This is all a sham, and mostly on the POTUS and his allies Reid and his ilk.

      What the GOP is doing is constitutionally correct.It is the way that the House can and should address grievances. After all it is the house that has the purse strings so to speak, not the POTUS or the Senate. That particular bill / law, The Affordable Care Act was surreptitiously passed and that alone is enough to cause any right thinking person to be upset.
      And we’re not even at the point of contention with the free spending Democrats yet. A horse with no reigns will trample all, a House with no reigns will do the same to your income. We can no longer afford the over, uncontrolled spending, and the people can no longer afford the cost.

  • OldmanRick

    Rino J. Cornyn is a fraud, fake, flip flopper, flimflam man, and nothing more than a bio-system for a sphincter valve.

  • vikings55

    This will surely put them in favour of the public. Pfft. Political dunces. Really, has anyone here seen such political malpractice as this whole fiasco? They don’t even know what they shut down the Government over anymore. Kiss the Senate goodbye already, working on the house now.

  • imwithstuoopid

    Please read this before talking about who’s doing what to whom….

    1. Shutdown Theater of the Absurd

    Bill Clinton
    long ago perfected the art of “shutdown theater,”
    also known as the Washington Monument Strategy, in
    which a government shutdown is designed to hit the
    tourists first—for example, by shutting down
    the Washington Monument—in order to maximize
    its visible impact and stampede the public into
    demanding that House Republicans surrender.

    This time, history is repeating itself as
    farce, with the Obama administration ordering the
    “shutdown” of public facilities where there is
    nothing to shut down. Shutdown theater has become
    shutdown theater of the absurd.

    Consider the obstruction of the unstaffed,
    open-air WWII Memorial—a
    “shutdown” that required federal workers to erect
    barricades around the monuments where none had
    been before. After the barricades were overrun by
    WWII veterans, they were then wired shut.

    “On Tuesday morning, seven National
    Park Service employees were seen erecting and
    tending to a barricade around the World War II
    memorial in Washington, DC. One NPS employee was
    operating a forklift. There usually aren’t any NPS
    employees working at the World War II memorial….

    “The barriers are still at the memorial, and
    they’ve been reinforced. This morning, I walked by
    the memorial and noticed that wires had been used
    to tie the fences together.”

    Get that? Because federal workers cannot work,
    federal workers are at work, strengthening
    barricades to a site that requires no workers to
    remain open.

    Similarly, the administration has been ordering the shutdown of public
    parks that receive no federal funds and could have
    remained open. The employees of one such park are
    staying on the job as an act of
    civil disobedience. The administration has also refused to let the state
    government of Arizona pay to keep Grand Canyon
    open. Now there’s a statement of the
    warped metaphysics of shutdown theater: the
    conceit that even the existence of nature is
    dependent on federal funding. Without it, the
    Grand Canyon will close up.

    But this shutdown theater is all just a
    colorful distraction from the real issue: the fact
    that the overwhelming majority of government is
    not shut down by the shutdown.

    Paul Roderick Gregory runs the numbers.

    “Eighty cents out of every federal
    non-defense dollar represents a transfer from
    taxpayer to recipient. Entitlement transfers do
    not require annual Congressional approval. They
    can be changed only by entitlement reform, which
    is not on the table. We cannot, therefore ‘shut
    down’ a federal government whose primary business
    is income redistribution.

    “The entitlement checks and interest payments
    must go out the door, government shutdown or no
    government shutdown. The Social Security,
    unemployment compensation, disability, Medicare,
    and Medicaid checks go out automatically like the
    Ever Ready Energizer Bunny.”

    By his calculation, at most 13% of government
    spending is affected by the “shutdown.” Here’s the
    conclusion he draws.

    “The government shutdown makes clear
    that our federal government is no longer in the
    business of providing for the national defense,
    the legal system, collecting taxes, and other
    traditional government functions. Its primary
    activity has become redistribution through
    transfer payments.”

    But let’s look at this from another
    perspective. Welfare-state spending keeps going
    because it is permanently authorized and requires
    no special congressional approval. That means that
    most government spending is outside the normal
    process of congressional budgeting and
    appropriations. The money comes in and goes out
    automatically, with no need for any
    ongoing authorization and review by Congress.

    This sheds light on the specific issue behind
    the current shutdown. House Republicans refused to
    pass a funding bill unless it included a delay in
    the implementation of ObamaCare. That explains why
    Democrats are willing to let government get shut
    down. If they refuse the Republican bill, funding
    for ObamaCare goes ahead anyway, because it’s part
    of the permanent welfare state that keeps going on
    autopilot. So looked at from the perspective of
    the budget process, the issue is this: House
    Republicans are trying to bring ObamaCare back
    within the realm of congressional
    appropriations—and Democrats are trying to
    keep it outside of the sphere of congressional
    appropriations, along with the rest of the welfare
    state and the overwhelming majority of federal

    When the framers of the Constitution required
    that revenue bills originate in the House, they
    intended to keep taxes and spending under control
    by making them dependent on annual approval by the
    branch of government that was most dependent on
    popular support. What we are seeing right now is
    that the vast mechanism of the welfare state has
    been constructed outside of this process. To be
    sure, Congress could vote to reform or dismantle
    any particular welfare state program, but that’s a
    much higher bar to clear than the rest of the
    budget, which requires the regular, affirmative
    approval of Congress. So altering welfare state
    programs or reducing their spending is much more
    difficult. What this implies is that the size and
    scope of government is now largely on autopilot
    and is not actually affected by regular
    congressional votes.

    So all of the current conflict over whether
    Congress will pass a budget or a funding
    resolution masks the fact that Congress and its
    budget have been made largely irrelevant to the
    question of the size and power of government. That
    is the real absurdity behind the shutdown theater
    of the absurd.

    ———Leave a message…

    • naxet1

      Disgusting, irresponsible and dubious behavior by Obama again – this will come back to haunt him someday!

      • Layla


    • Jaycasey


      • imwithstuoopid

        Sorry, but some things can only be fully understood when completely explained. All things this administration and congress does needs to be explained and exposed for what they are and what they’re doing. Learning takes time and discipline. Please read to understand what’s happening.

    • Dr. Obvious

      there are more people working to close the parks than worked in the parks.

      • imwithstuoopid

        And it’s being questioned and investigated.
        They should first call the guy who sicced the IRS on those organizations a while ago.

  • Gyst53

    I vote for paid vacations for everyone! How long can we go without missing government services?

    “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Abraham Lincoln – June 16, 1858

    Unfortunately, we elected Representatives and Senators who are not familiar with the term compromise and a President who refuses to be our President. We now have a government that believes Extend-And-Pretend To Lie-And-Deny…. is a mandate or that the the truth is but a lie undiscovered!

  • Montesquieu

    In related video, Hussein Obama lies to the face of the American people about keeping their insurance and their doctor:

  • Jaycasey

    The Republicans are making quite a name for themselves – and not one they will enjoy wearing. I will never forget how they have treated federal workers during these times and I will never forget who caused the shutdown. And it certainly wasn’t the President.

    • 1775concord

      It certainly was the President, and his henchman, Harry Reid.
      Please explain why Reid has not brought up those bills passed by the House: funding for veterans, NIH, FEMA; Why Obama created new guards to keep Americans from our national monuments. And why he has done such despicable things as preventing WWII veterans from visiting their memorial, shutting down Amber alert, and now, incredibly, refusing to pay for the remains of our soldiers in foreign wars to be brought home.

  • 35years


    • MrSmith

      So they won’t have to report that the Democrats are blocking it in the Senate.
      The media coverage of this shutdown is getting “too silly”- to cite an old Monty Python skit.

      • imwithstuoopid

        This whole congressional establishment is the Ministry of Village Idiots, oh heck that demeans Village Idiots, sorry.

  • Dr. Obvious

    if we give back pay, wont that mean that 18% of the government is getting a paid vacation? if the funds are going to be there, why cant we just operate as if they are there? it is absurd. Imwithstuoopid

    • imwithstuoopid

      A very large portion of the Federal bureaucracy is funded in such a way that it does not require the year to year budget approvals, just gets funded automatically based on past costs.

    • 35years

      yeah thats right apiad vacation whre you cant go anywehre as you must report right back to work as soon as they call it, dont know if and when you will get paid again, and if you are working people look at you seriously when you said you could be working for free. I was honestly told the i am expected to show up for work, may not get paid and if I dont I willbe considered awol and fired. so yeah, nice freakin vacation you tool

      • Dr. Obvious

        someone have a gun to their heads? I work to live, not live to work. when i am unemployed I go on vacations and trips to theme parks. Sorry you didnt get enough education or training to get a real job. Go on vacation and if you are called off furlough tell your boss you’ll be back when you are back. Who’s the tool? you

  • Jimh77

    Seriously??? You GOP Freakin fools are worthless POS’s. You all got paid. You all get paid every day, even that you DON:T DESERVE A FREAKING PENNY.

    I know one thing, I will never again vote for another Republican as long as I can still vote. I don’t care who the opponent is.

    Republicans gave to go, then we need to get rid of the Dems.

    New parties are what America needs. New Blood, not the blood suckers we have now. Worthless creatures that don’t give a damn about America. WORTHLESS POND SCUM.

    Totally fed up with politicians. The only good ones, are pushing daisies.

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