With the wheels of federal government screeching and groaning to a possible halt at midnight Friday, our Congressman expressed hope that a shutdown was not in the works.
“We don’t know yet,” said Representative Buck McKeon, “We just had a conference an hour ago and Speaker Boehner told us where we were. He said the rider issues have been pretty much taken care of and all we are fighting about is money; how much we want to cut and how much they didn’t want to cut.”
“First and foremost, it’s really important to know that Republicans, at least 99 percent of us, don’t want a shutdown, we want to keep working on cutting spending and encourage job creation.”
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McKeon cited the passage of the Defense Appropriations Bill that ensured troops would continue to receive their paychecks, no matter what happened in Washington.
“To me it was very important to take care of the troops,” he continued. “When we’re fighting three wars, including Libya, we have people out in harm’s way.”
If the government does shut down, an estimated 800,000 federal workers will be sent home without pay. Early on Friday, Boehner told ABC News that he would return his pay during the days the government is shut down.
A reporter queried McKeon: “You can choose to give up your pay during a shutdown, is that something you would be willing to do?”
There was a long silence before he answered.
“Why should I do that?” he asked.
He said that lawmakers’ pay was protected by the 27th Amendment and defense funding comes from annual appropriations bills.
McKeon cited the amendment as law requiring members of Congress to take their pay no matter what happened to the government, but the amendment simply provides that the rate of pay for members cannot change until after an election.
“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”
Asked how close the two sides were, McKeon was unable to provide any numbers. He also ducked the ideological problem of Planned Parenthood funding, claiming that the only people who knew what was on the table were the President, Vice President, Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“I’m not in the negotiations,” McKeon reiterated. “I can only tell you what Speaker Boehner told us and that is what we’re fighting over now is the money. There are more cuts that we want than they want.”
“He (Boehner) wasn’t going to give a number, because as soon as he did it would be released,” McKeon continued. “When you’re in serious negotiations, you kind of owe it to everyone in negotiations to negotiate with them and not in the press. He’s holding it (the number) in his head.”
McKeon said that he is concerned about the people who might be out of work if a shutdown occurs.
“I’m very concerned about the people they’re working to help,” he said. “Everybody loses in a shutdown.”
Asked how many of his own staff members would be affected by a shutdown, he was unable to answer, saying he hadn’t worked it out.
“I’m hoping we don’t have a shutdown. On the House Armed Services Committee staff, there will be 20 staff members would be furloughed on a rotating basis starting tomorrow,” he said, adding “this is going to put a real burden on us to get our work out.”
Despite other federal employees being furloughed, members of Congress were told to stay put in the hopes of settling things.
“We’re planning on being here,” McKeon said. “I don’t know if we’ll be in session, but we were told by leadership not to be away because we could be called in for a vote.”
Asked by a reporter if he perceived a bias in reporting, the Congressman was quick to answer.
“I think media coverage is always slanted towards the Democrats,” he stated. “When I say that, that’s not the local coverage, but the Washington media like MSNBC, CNN and the Washington Post.”
“It’s always we versus them,” McKeon continued. “It’s not a fair negotiation. We’ve done our work, they haven’t. I don’t think it’s quite fair coverage.”