Furlough days may be over for congressional staffers who have been forced to stay home during the government shutdown. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get paid anytime soon.
Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., announced today in a statement that he had ordered all his staff members to return to work starting Tuesday. His rationale: Taxpayers shouldn’t pay the bill for their paid vacations.
Over the weekend, the House passed legislation that guaranteed that furloughed federal employees would be paid once the government reopened. President Obama has indicated he would support the legislation, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hasn’t yet said when the Senate might vote on it.
The prospects that Congress and the White House might agree on this measure, if nothing else, probably induced a sigh of relief from federal employees, including those working on the Hill, although their paychecks won’t come until the shutdown is over.
Sanford said that the bill’s passage, which is pending a Senate vote, and Obama’s signature, means that there’s no longer any justification for staff members to continue to stay home. More than half of Sanford’s office is currently furloughed.
“When the government shut down, we took steps to furlough more than half our staff, because we believed that taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for anything more than essential operations during a shutdown,” Stanford said in a statement. “Now that the House has passed legislation to provide all federal employees with back pay, and the president has announced his intention to support it, we think it is in the best interest of the taxpayer for us to end our staff furloughs.
“I think common sense would dictate that now that it’s clear everyone will be paid, that they should work — anything less would amount to an extended taxpayer subsidized vacation,” Sanford added.
At least one other congressional office told ABC News that that it was looking at the prospect of following Sanford’s move this week.
No one, it seems, wants to be accused of allowing staff to be on a two week (or more) paid vacation.
And keeping a congressional office open with a skeletal staff has produced some interesting results, including lawmakers taking to answering their own phones.