The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Some Virginia GOP congressmen open to ‘clean’ spending resolution
As the federal government headed toward day three of its shutdown, some Virginia Republican congressmen—including the 1st District’s Rep. Rob Wittman—said they’d vote for a spending resolution without a health law delay attached to it.
The government shutdown began at midnight Monday when the federal fiscal year ended without Congress passing a resolution to keep funding it. House Republicans want such a resolution to include a one-year delay in implementation of the Affordable Care Act, while President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats say the ACA is a settled law and call for a “clean” spending resolution that focuses only on immediate budget issues.
Wittman has voted for the House measures that tied the two issues together but said Wednesday he’s willing to vote for a “clean” spending bill if one is brought up for a House vote.
“I’ve emphasized that at every opportunity, I have voted and will continue to vote to fund government,” Wittman said in a telephone interview. “So if a clean CR [continuing resolution] comes to the floor I will vote for it. I will vote in favor of opening the government, and I will vote to continue the debate about health care reform and the Affordable Care Act.”
House leaders had not indicated as of Wednesday evening that they would bring such a bill up for a vote, although earlier in the day a Democratic effort to force a vote on reopening the government failed on a party-line vote of 227–197, with all Republicans voting against it.
Marc Broklawski, Democratic chairman in Virginia’s 1st Congressional District, criticized Wittman’s part in that vote in a statement Wednesday night, saying Wittman should “walk the talk.”
“We’re continuing to watch what Congressman Wittman says and most importantly, how he votes or doesn’t vote,” said Broklawski.
Wittman said the shutdown is hurting federal workers, many of whom live in Virginia, who are furloughed without pay. He said his office has gotten many calls from workers urging a resolution to the shutdown, and also from people who are concerned about the ACA’s impact on their health insurance.
“We have to continue to have that debate, too, but we have to remember we have an obligation on both ends,” Wittman said.
Wittman is donating his congressional pay during the shutdown to a charity—he hasn’t decided on one yet, but said it will relate to military families or families in need.
House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R–7th, and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine are also forgoing their paychecks during the shutdown, said staff in their offices, and Sen. Mark Warner is donating his to the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund. Wittman, Kaine and Warner also were among several Virginia lawmakers who said they’re signing on to legislation that would guarantee back pay to the federal employees who are currently furloughed without pay.
Some 800,000 federal workers are not working during the shutdown and not being paid.
Warner and Kaine, both Democrats, said in a news release late Tuesday that they’ll co-sponsor a bill requiring the federal government to retroactively pay those workers for the days of the shutdown, after it’s over. Also signing onto that Senate bill are the two senators from Maryland, which like Virginia has a high concentration of federal employees.
Retroactive pay for furloughed workers is at the discretion of Congress. Virginia has more than 150,000 civilian federal employees, Warner and Kaine said in the news release.
“Sequestration is stupid. Shutting down the government is stupidity on steroids,” Warner said in a Wednesday morning Capitol Hill news conference about the bill, according to a transcript.
Warner said the shutdown means 70 percent of civilian intelligence workers are furloughed. “That is putting our country and our troops at risk,” he said.
He also said the furloughs hurt nonfederal businesses, like restaurants and motels near national parks that are now shuttered.
“The rest of the world isn’t stopping their science, their innovation because a narrow group in the House decided to shut down the federal government. The rest of the world hasn’t been put on hold because an ideological group in the House won’t allow the speaker to bring a bill up to open the government,” Warner said. “Let the House vote,” Warner said. Warner said. “We can have our disagreements. But no modern enterprise, government or otherwise, allows it to be shut down, to basically say, we’re going to put this economy on skids because they don’t get their way.”
In the written release, Kaine said that promising pay—at some point—is “the least we can do” for federal employees, especially because the government should be trying harder to retain talented workers.
The news release lists Wittman along with Virginia congressmen Rep. Gerald Connolly and Rep. Scott Rigell as having signed onto a House version.
Wittman’s district covers part of the Fredericksburg area and extends southeast to the York area, taking in areas that have a heavy presence of workers connected to the military and other areas of federal government.
The release said that in the past, federal workers furloughed in a shutdown got paid retroactively because Congress passed legislation requiring it. This bill uses the same language as was used in legislation to pay workers during the federal government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996, the release said.
The proposed bill says federal employees furloughed “as a result of any lapse in appropriations which begins on or about October 1, 2013, shall be compensated at their standard rate of compensation, for the period of such lapse in appropriations, as soon as practicable after such lapse in appropriations ends.”
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028