House passes bills to fund safety and security agencies during shutdown

Bipartisan effort aims to put pressure on Senate

The House on Thursday passed bills to pay National Guard troops and fund Veterans Affairs services during the government shutdown and signaled that it would take up a bill to make sure all federal employees — including those on furlough — eventually get paid.

With the shutdown extended into a third day and showing few signs of ending, House Republicans have settled on a strategy of trying to blunt some of the high-profile ill effects of the stoppage and to win some bipartisan votes, hoping that will give them the upper hand in the battle with Senate Democrats.


SEE ALSO: Senate Democrats block reopening of NIH, national parks


But the shutdown fight already is being overshadowed by the battle over the federal debt limit, which must be raised later this month.

Several news outlets reported that House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio has told Republicans privately that he would be willing to rely on Democratic votes to pass a debt increase. That would undercut many in his own party who believe the GOP must extract more changes to federal spending as part of a debt deal.

“This could be the beginnings of a significant breakthrough,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, trying to encourage Mr. Boehner to split with his party.

President Obama speaks about the government shutdown and the pending debt ceiling fight during a visit to M. Luis Construction, a Rockville, Md. based-company that specializes in asphalt manufacturing, concrete paving, and roadway reconstruction.

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President Obama speaks about the government shutdown and the pending debt ceiling ... more >

Before they get to the debt fight, Republicans first must find a way out of the spending battle, where they have settled on the piecemeal strategy to try to pressure Democrats.

Their latest move involves 10 spending bills to fund Border Patrol, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the intelligence community and other key areas where safety or security could be damaged by the expiration of government funding Tuesday morning.

Top intelligence officials warned Congress on Wednesday that the furloughs and shutdown were making members of the intelligence community vulnerable to being recruited by enemy agents.


SEE ALSO: Obama, at Md. construction company, slams Republicans over government shutdown


“We are going to go forward with trying to address situations that are in critical stages,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican.

The employee bill in particular has widespread support among Democrats and labor unions. They have said workers count on paychecks and shouldn’t be penalized for the stalemate in Washington.

The bill would guarantee that all federal employees get paid even if they were furloughed during the shutdown.

“Fairness is the compelling reason for doing this. These folks didn’t bring this about. They’re trying to do their job, they want to come into work every day,” said Rep. James P. Moran, the Virginia Democrat who is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican. Both of them represent tens of thousands of federal employees.

Furloughed employees were paid after the 1995-1996 shutdowns. Without Mr. Moran’s bill, however, there is no guarantee that would happen this time.

For now, though, the Republican strategy has had little success in the Senate, despite the House approval of bills to fund the National Institutes of Health, the national parks, the Smithsonian Institution, services for veterans and pay for military reserve and National Guard troops.

The veterans bill passed Tuesday on a 259-157 vote, with 35 Democrats joining Republicans in support, and the military pay bill passed 265-160 with 36 Democrats siding with Republicans.

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