(CBS)–With much of the federal government shut down for the fifth day,
Congress has its hands full trying to reach an agreement on reopening
the government, but one brief spot of compromise emerged on Saturday,
when a broad bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives passed a
bill granting back pay to federal employees who have been furloughed
during the shutdown.
The bill passed by a margin of 407 to zero. Twenty-five members did not vote. In a press conference after the vote, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the House “took another step to try and ease the pain of the federal government shutdown.”
Senate Democratic leaders have not commented publicly on the proposal, but the White House has signaled its strong support.
“Federal workers keep the Nation safe and secure and provide vital services that support the economic security of American families,” a statement from the White House read. “The Administration appreciates that the Congress is acting promptly to move this bipartisan legislation and looks forward to the bill’s swift passage.”
Restoring back pay to federal workers is “something Congresses have done every time there’s been a shutdown, and it’s something bipartisan majorities support,” White House spokesman Jay Carney added on Friday.
Unfortunately, that is where the bipartisan agreement ends, for the most part.
The parties remain as far apart on Saturday as they have been for much of the week, with Democrats in the House and Senate calling for a “clean” bill to reopen the government with no strings attached, and Republicans demanding some kind of concession from Democrats on Obamacare before they consent to end the shutdown.
In his weekly address Saturday, President Obama again called on House Republicans to allow an up-or-down vote on a “clean” bill.
“There’s only one way out of this reckless and damaging shutdown: pass a budget that funds our government, with no partisan strings attached,” the president said. “But the far right of the Republican Party won’t let Speaker John Boehner give that bill a yes-or-no vote.”
“Take that vote. Stop this farce. End this shutdown now.”
In an interview with the Associated Press released Saturday, the president said the shutdown could end immediately if Republicans drop their demands and hold a vote. “We can vote to open the government today,” he said. “We know that there are enough members in the House of Representatives — Democrats and Republicans — who are prepared to vote to reopen the government today. The only thing that is keeping that from happening is Speaker Boehner has made a decision that he is going to hold out to see if he can get additional concessions from us.”
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