President Obama opposes the House Republican caucus strategy to pass government funding in pieces, but the White House signaled Friday he will sign at least one of those bills — a measure that would ensure federal employees get paid even if they were forced out of work.
In a policy statement, the White House budget office said it “strongly supports” the bipartisan House bill to make sure workers get their full wages no matter whether they were forced to work or were put on furlough.
With the White House backing, that bill appears to give the House GOP a much-sought-after victory in the shutdown showdown.
The bill is sponsored by Virginia Reps. James P. Moran, a Democrat, and Frank Wolf, a Republican, and is expected to be one of a series of bills the House considers in the next few days to fund high-profile programs such as the Border Patrol and emergency management.
Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats have rejected the piecemeal strategy, saying they wouldn’t pick and choose from among spending, and insisting the entire government be opened or none of it be opened.
The federal employees bill does not break that vow, since it won’t put any workers back on the job, but merely ensure everyone gets paid. All workers were paid after the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns, too.
Republicans said it was striking that Mr. Obama has vowed to veto bills funding veterans’ services, the National Institutes of Health and the nation’s national parks, even as he said he’ll sign the federal employees bill.
One other bill could also cause problems for Democrats. That legislation would allow the District of Columbia to spend its own tax money to keep open.
Since the city is a federal district under the control of Congress, it is subject to the same shutdown. Right now the city is operating on emergency contingency funds, but once those are gone the city will have to stop paying employees.
The House has already approved the D.C. bill, which was backed by the city’s non-voting member of Congress, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, and Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican and chairman of the House oversight committee, which oversees the District.
It’s one of several bills now awaiting action in the Senate.