From the first Morning Jolt of the week:
The Sadism of Harry Reid
sadism: (noun) enjoyment that someone gets from being violent or cruel or from causing pain
The good news is that those civilian Department of Defense workers I mentioned in Friday’s Jolt will go back to work soon.
On Saturday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution 407-0 to ensure back pay for federal workers furloughed because of the shutdown. Those federal workers still have the problem of no paycheck coming until after the shutdown ends – but if and when this bill passes, they can at least take assurance that they’ll get paid for the weeks they’ve been furloughed.*
This is quite the revealing moment, as the leadership of the Democratic party and federal government workers are supposed to be the best of friends — symbiotic, really. But when the moment comes to help out federal workers, Harry Reid drags his feet. The only plausible motivation is that the Democrats’ strategy for “winning” the shutdown fight requires maximizing the pain to as many Americans as possible, so that the pressure is maximized on the GOP opposition to accept a deal that amounts to unconditional surrender.
Thus, we have a government shutdown where the federal Amber Alert site is down, but Michelle Obama’s “Drink Water” site remains up. (The volunteer site, AmberAlert.com, and MissingKids.com are still up.) Now wonder this morning people are saying the president lives in “the Spite House.”
I hope those federal workers are paying attention.
Harry Reid drags his feet on alleviating the financial anxiety of hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers, and he’s refused to bring to the floor seven continuing resolutions, all passed by the House, all passed by wide and fairly bipartisan majorities (all or almost all of the Republicans, and another 20 or so House Democrats):
- Authorizing military chaplains to do their duties during the shutdown;
- Continuing appropriations for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children for fiscal year 2014 (food stamps).
- Continuing appropriations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
- Continuing appropriations for veterans benefits.
- Continuing appropriations for the National Institutes of Health.
- Continuing appropriations for National Park Service operations, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery of Art, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
- Continuing appropriations of local funds of the District of Columbia.
Not a single one of those resolutions says anything about Obamacare.
We know why Harry Reid isn’t bringing them to the floor. If he did, they would pass. Senate Democrats wouldn’t be able to vote “no” on any of those priorities without providing fodder for attack ads next fall (maybe the District of Columbia). And if they pass, the pain of the shutdown is mitigated in part.
Harry Reid doesn’t want to minimize the pain of the shutdown. He wants to maximize it.
* I can hear the complaints now: “Jim, why should these federal workers get paid if they’re not working?” If you want to eliminate their jobs, then eliminate their jobs. But these workers have been stuck in a holding pattern: ‘Stop going to work until further notice, and maybe you’ll get paid for the days or weeks you’re not there.’ Most workers and their families could get by for a couple days or a week without pay, but how many weeks could you or your household go by with no money coming in?
These workers didn’t walk off the job. They didn’t quit. This isn’t their fault, but they’re the ones feeling the most pain. In the District of Columbia and Virginia, a worker has to be out of work for a week before filing for unemployment benefits, and payments may not begin for several weeks. And if a furloughed federal worker does collect unemployment benefits, they have to pay them back once they receive any back pay. In other words, there’s a good chance that the unemployment benefit check will arrive just as the check for the back pay arrives.