A bill to retroactively pay furloughed federal workers once the government shutdown is over sailed through the House of Representatives on a 407-0 vote on Saturday but is lingering in the Senate as a senator privately voiced objections to it.
House Democrats characterized the Senate snag as a secret hold on the back pay bill. During a debate on a House bill to provide immediate pay for government workers who are currently on the job, Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Tex., said that Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., was "holding up the bill, which I would say I understand."
Sessions said that Cornyn is trying to prompt the Senate to take up spending bills the House approved for individual agencies like the National Institutes of Health, the National Park Service and the Veterans Affairs Department.
Senate Democrats want the House to vote on a "clean" continuing resolution - devoid of any measures impacting the Affordable Care Act - to fund the entire federal government. They've refused to take up the individual funding bills, calling them "piecemeal."
"It's not like that's holding up anything," Sessions said. "In fact, what Senator Cornyn is trying to do is get people back to work and have the Senate vote on it as opposed to being obstructionist and not having them vote to get the NIH and other bills we have passed to get those people back to work. Essential or not, they are part of our government, they give services, I think we need them back on the job."
A spokeswoman for Cornyn's office said that he did not have a hold on the back pay bill but added that Cornyn believes that the bill is "premature" and that Congress should "deal with our veterans and NIH before federal workers."