The Republican-led House passed a bill Saturday to give thousands of furloughed federal workers back pay when the government reopens, but Democrats promptly characterized it as a signal the GOP doesn’t want the partial shutdown to end.
“Now we're saying to federal employees: We're going to pay you when this is all over with,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said minutes after the 407-to-0 House vote. “But right now, you just stay home … watch TV, play chess, whatever you’re going to do, because we won't let you work.”
The Senate is expected to OK it as well but adjourned Saturday without a vote. The Democrat-controlled chamber will not scheduled a vote until at least Monday afternoon, when members return to Washington.
The back-and-forth comes on the fifth day of the partial government shutdown and marks the second straight weekend that members of Congress are on Capitol Hill trying to agree on a spending bill to end the saga.
At the same time, House Democrats extended Reid’s talking point while also adding that both sides have agreed to spending levels for a temporary funding bill to end the partial shutdown, so House Republicans should drop their effort to defund or delay ObamaCare and vote this weekend to fully re-open the government.
“We have accepted their number, unpleasant as it is,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “We can be open by Monday. The American people want the government open.”
The California Democrat’s remarks followed a letter from the House Democratic Caucus to Speaker John Boehner demanding a vote.
“Enough is enough,” said the letter, signed by 195 voting members and five non-voting delegates. “We demand a vote on a clean continuing [spending] resolution immediately so that government functioning can resume and Americans can move on with their lives.
House leaders on Saturday again put the blame on Democrats, particularly Senate leadership.
“The House just took another step to try to ease the pain,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “We have majority leader in senate that won't work out differences.”
The House-passed measure gives 800,000 furloughed federal workers retroactive pay once the government reopens.
The White House backs the legislation.
After the voting, House members are planning to leave town and not return until Monday evening.
The House had already passed several other bills to reopen selected parts of the federal government, which Democrats have rejected as a piecemeal approach.