U.S – House Approves Back Pay for Furloughed Workers.

WASHINGTON — The House, in a rare Saturday session, voted unanimously to guarantee that federal workers will receive back pay once the government shutdown ends, offering a promise of relief if not an actual rescue to more than 1 million government employees either furloughed or working without pay.
The 407-to-0 vote, on a measure backed by President Obama, followed a morning debate in which lawmakers from both parties extolled government doctors and nurses saving lives, emergency relief workers braving disasters to rescue citizens, and NASA scientists exploring space. In 2011, many of those same lawmakers, swept to power on a Tea Party wave, pressed for legislation imposing a hard freeze on government salaries and held hearings on a federal work force they said was overpaid and bloated.
After the vote, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, criticized Mr. Obama for what he called a failure of leadership for refusing to negotiate a way out of the impasse. But he said Republican leaders would not allow a vote to reopen the government without delivering a blow to the president’s health care law, with a delay in the mandate that individuals purchase health insurance and a prohibition on federal subsidies for members of Congress, White House leaders and their staff, who must purchase policies on the law’s new insurance exchanges.
“The Republican position has been and continues to be no special treatment under the law, no special treatment under Obamacare,” Mr. Cantor said.
Frustration among Republicans is growing, however. Representative Dennis A. Ross, Republican of Florida who came to Congress on the Tea Party wave of 2010, said his party was misled if it believed that shutting down the government could disrupt or cripple the Affordable Care Act. Because the health law is paid for by its own funding mechanisms, it is moving forward as other parts of the government have ground to a halt.
“Republicans have to realize how many significant gains we’ve made over the last three years — and we have, not only in cutting spending but really turning the ride on other things,” he said. “We can’t lose all that when there’s no connection now between the shutdown and the funding of Obamacare.”
“I think now it’s a lot about pride,” he added.
The House also voted, 400-to-1, on a resolution saying military chaplains should be able to conduct religious services, despite the shutdown. Republicans accused the Obama administration of stifling religious freedom. Representative Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services, said Republicans had concocted an issue that did not exist.
The lone “no” vote belonged to Representative William Enyart, Democrat of Illinois.
The bill continues a House Republican strategy of passing a series of smaller spending measures on popular topics in an effort to pressure Democrats to reopen at least portions of the government.
So far, the bills passed include ones to finance the National Institutes of Health; to reopen national parks, monuments and museums; to pay for veterans programs; and to pay inactive National Guardsmen and reservists. In the coming days, House Republicans expect to take up at least nine other small spending bills, like financing the Head Start program for low-income children, as well as the Department of Homeland Security’s border protection programs.
The Senate also convened on Saturday and is expected to pass the back pay measure. But Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, has said he will not negotiate with Republicans or finance the government on a piecemeal basis. The Democrats want the Republicans to end the shutdown — the first in 17 years — with a spending bill that has no strings attached.
Ensuring that workers receive back pay is one of the few issues on which President Obama and House Republicans agree. In a statement Friday, the Office of Management and Budget said that administration “strongly supports” the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act.
The pay for government workers — which, unlike the spending sought in other Republican measures, would be retroactive — might get consideration by the Senate, though no final decisions have been made.
At issue is a temporary measure to keep the government operating. House Republicans have linked the measure to efforts to delay or defund the president’s signature health care legislation. Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats have refused to negotiate on the issue, demanding that the House vote on a continuing resolution without attachments.
So far, there have been few signs of possible negotiations to end the standoff, and leaders on both sides again staked out their positions on Saturday during their weekly addresses.
President Obama talked about the toll the shutdown was having on Americans, and he urged the House to take a vote on a clean spending bill. “Stop this farce,” he said. “End this shutdown now.”
“The American people don’t get to demand ransom in exchange for doing their job. Neither does Congress,” Mr. Obama said. “They don’t get to hold our democracy or our economy hostage over a settled law. They don’t get to kick a child out of Head Start if I don’t agree to take her parents’ health insurance away. That’s not how our democracy is supposed to work.”
In the Republican response, Senator John Cornyn of Texas placed the blame for the shutdown on the Democrats.
“House Republicans have repeatedly sent over legislation that would fund federal operations, but Senate Democrats have rejected each and every bill,” Mr. Cornyn said. “They’re effectively arguing that the House bills are simply illegitimate because they contain policy measures that the Democrats don’t like. But what normally happens when the two parties disagree on a policy is a negotiation.”
It’s become disturbingly clear that the Obama-Reid shutdown is no longer about health care or spending or ideology,” he said. “It’s about politics plain and simple.”