GOP makes new round of shutdown threats

Late last night the Obama administration warned that the president is opposed to Republican provisions in the “omnibus” bill to keep the government running after tomorrow.

The administration wants, instead, passage of a short-term budget measure to allow for more time for negotiations on both the budget bill and the extension of the payroll tax cut for workers.

A short term bill funding the government expires tomorrow and without action by Congress, the government will partially shut down.

The Republican language the administration opposes would gut Wall Street financial reform by failing to fund the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and would drastically weaken President Obama’s ability to conduct foreign policy.

The GOP has attached a provision to the bill that would reinstate restrictions on travel to Cuba that were lifted or liberalized by President Obama in 2009.

The GOP hopes to ram through its version of the bill by tomorrow so it can allow its members to clear out for the Christmas holiday. That would increase pressure on the Senate to accept both the spending bill the GOP wants and the Republican version of the payroll tax cut that avoids any new taxes on millionaires.

It is already clear that Republican intransigence on the matter of not taxing the rich is forcing Democrats to come up with a compromise that allows the tax cut for workers to be extended without adding a millionaire’s tax.

Since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is reported to have ruled out further cuts to discretionary spending, the approach backed by Republicans. Thus far Republicans have not shown a willingness to make any concessions in exchange for Democrats dropping the tax on millionaires.

Federal workers are living a double nightmare this holiday season. In addition to facing layoffs if the government shuts down, the GOP bill calls for adding 12 months to the two year freeze currently clamped on their paychecks. The GOP plan also calls for larger payments by workers into their pension plans and for cuts in the pensions themselves.

“A shutdown would be devastating for federal workers at agencies where funding has not yet been approved by Congress,” said William R. Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees.

“Federal workers are the scapegoats,” said Eddie Eitches, President of Local 476 of the American Federation of Government Employees. He said that the interests of his workers are apparently not of major concern to Republican lawmakers.

Several Democratic lawmakers, however, on a conference call yesterday that was sponsored by the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, denounced the GOP attack on federal workers. Those on the call included Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., and Reps. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., James Moran, D-Va., and Gerald Connolly, D-Va.

Cardin described a letter he and other senators sent to Reid demanding that the Senate “reject any proposals that call for pay freezes or other forms of compensation reduction for federal workers, or significant reductions in the federal workforce.”

Senators who signed the letter were Democrats Barbara Mikulski, Md., Barbara Boxer, Calif., James Webb, Va., Tom Harkin, Iowa., Mark Warner, Va., Carl Levin, Mich., and Daniel Akaka, Hawaii.

Connolly said the GOP shows its hypocrisy when it insists on paying for a payroll tax cut for the middle class while pushing unpaid-for tax cuts for the rich.

“It is ironic to me,” he said, “that Republicans have abandoned their own ideology, long-standing, that tax cuts pay for themselves and don’t need to be offset at all.”

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., was one of only 14 Republicans to vote against his party’s bill. “Some would have the one year tax holiday financed through a long-term structural attack on federal employees,” he said. He then reminded his fellow lawmakers that “some federal civilians risk their lives on behalf of the nation and provide many vital services.”

Photo: On a street corner in Los Angeles, a cart belonging to a homeless person. Poster image depicts House Speaker John Boehner. The ranks of the nation’s poor have swelled to a record 46.2 million – nearly 1 in 6 Americans. (Jae C. Hong/AP)


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.