When the South starts giving up on gay marriage, it‚Äôs time for the GOP to at least give in on ENDA
Supporters of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act are hoping to capitalize on the momentum from last week’s historic bipartisan Senate victory as they pursue a vote on the bill in the U.S. House.
Ten Senate Republicans voted for ENDA, which would prohibit most employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Their support gave the bill more bipartisan support than “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, which had just eight GOP votes, and more than any other pro-LGBT bill that has come to a vote in the Senate.
Liz Mair, a Republican political strategist who favors LGBT inclusion in the party, said the support that ENDA received in the Senate from Republicans demonstrates the party isn’t as opposed to LGBT rights as some observers might think.
“The fact that ENDA garnered 10 Republican votes in the Senate ‚ÄĒ and from a Republican caucus that is significantly less moderate than certain predecessor versions now that it lacks Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe, Judd Gregg and the like ‚ÄĒ is a reminder that the GOP is much more attuned to gay rights issues and much more in line with mainstream American attitudes on those issues than one would think from the image of the GOP that certain very conservative party leaders and the media tend to present,” Mair said.
The two Republican original co-sponsors ‚ÄĒ Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) ‚ÄĒ were joined in support by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).
Of those 10, the votes from McCain and Flake are particularly noteworthy because they represent a “red” state that President Obama lost in both 2008 and 2012. In addition, both senators expressed misgivings about ENDA before they ultimately voted for the bill.
Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, nonetheless said he wasn’t surprised by their support for the bill in the end.
“I know that both senators had expressed some hesitancy before casting their votes, but Flake is someone who voted for ENDA in 2007 when he was a member of the House, and Sen. McCain had even indicated that he would be open to supporting ENDA when he was running for president in 2008 ‚ÄĒ as part of, I believe, a questionnaire or interview he did with the Blade no less,” Angelo said.
A Senate source familiar with ENDA said McCain was able to support the bill after the adoption of the Portman-Ayotte amendment, which would prohibit federal, state and local governments from retaliating against institutions that invoke the religious exemption in the bill to discriminate against LGBT employees.
For Flake, who earlier told the Washington Blade he’d vote against ENDA because of the transgender protections in the bill, the Senate source said his support was solidified after he received assurances that businesses would receive guidance on the prohibition of gender identity discrimination.
Also significant on the Republican position on ENDA was the fact that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to Senate Republican aides familiar with the bill, didn’t whip the vote on the legislation and instead allowed members of his caucus to vote their conscience.
Angelo was among those who saw no evidence of Republican leadership instructing members to vote against ENDA.
“The fact that you had almost one-in-four members of the GOP caucus in the Senate vote in favor shows that membership was allowed to take a vote of conscience on this issue,” Angelo said.
Will the House vote on ENDA?
Now that the Senate has wrapped up its consideration of ENDA, attention has turned to passing the bill in the House, where Republican support will be necessary, first, to bring the bill to the floor and, second, to find 218 votes for the bill in the Republican majority chamber.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has indicated his opposition to the bill out of concern it would lead to “frivolous lawsuits” and a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was quoted in The Huffington Post as saying the bill “is currently not scheduled in the House.”
Nonetheless, Democrats ranging from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), ENDA’s chief sponsor in the House, insist that the House has enough votes for passage should it come to the floor.
Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), told the Blade his boss is among those who believe ENDA has sufficient support in the House for passage.
“Leader Pelosi has made it clear that there is sufficient support in the House to pass ENDA now,” Hammill said. “Instead of scheduling a vote on this measure, House Republicans are planning to vote for the 46th time to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act. There is only one man standing in the way of the expansion of workplace protections for millions of LGBT Americans. His name is John Boehner.”
ENDA has 196 House sponsors. That’s just 22 votes short of the necessary votes to pass the legislation on the House floor.
While the bill could technically come up at any time during the 13 months that remain in the current Congress, Polis said the legislation should come up sooner rather than later because, as Election Day approaches, members of the House will leave to campaign in their districts. It would be the first time that ENDA has come to the House floor since 2007, and the first time ever the chamber would consider a version of the bill that included transgender protections.
ENDA supporters claimed another Republican as their own last week when former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who served as spokesperson for former President George W. Bush, penned an op-ed in Politico¬†urging the House to pass the bill.
“Allowing people to be successful in their workplaces is an essential piece of individual opportunity and liberty,” Fleischer said. “Working for a living is one of America‚Äôs freedoms. It‚Äôs a virtue to be encouraged ‚ÄĒ and supporting it is important to the future of the Republican Party.”
But not all LGBT advocates agree that sufficient votes exist to pass ENDA in the House. Some Republican supporters of the legislation stopped short of saying ENDA already has sufficient support to pass on the floor.
Jeff Cook-McCormac, senior adviser to the pro-LGBT Republican group American Unity Fund, said more work is needed when asked if ENDA is ready to move to the House floor.
“We’re encouraged by the momentum, working to identify and demonstrate majority support and committed to engaging legislators in the thoughtful and respectful conversations necessary to get there as quickly as possible,” Cook-McCormac said.
Mair said ENDA will be “a more uphill battle in the House” not only because of conservative worries over the bill’s content, but also out of fear of supporting anything seen as part of Obama’s agenda. Still, she wouldn’t rule out a surprise.
“Even back in 2007, ENDA garnered a noteworthy amount of GOP support in the House, including from some rather conservative members,” Mair said. “Thirty-five Republicans voted for ENDA then, including John Campbell, Jeff Flake, Thaddeus McCotter and Paul Ryan. So it will be interesting to see how it plays out this time around.”
For Cook-McCormac, the next priority is to build the number of Republican co-sponsors for ENDA. There are currently five:¬†Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Jon Runyan (R-N.J.).
Dent told the¬†Washington Post¬†that Boehner “should allow a vote on this bill” because the American public believes the workplace should be free of discrimination.
Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement to the Blade that she also hopes Republican leadership will bring ENDA to the floor for a vote, but chose her words carefully about its prospects.
‚ÄúThe passage of ENDA by the Senate is a great first step toward making this bill law,” Ros-Lehitnen said.¬†”I urge my colleagues in the House to sign on to the companion bill and hope House leadership will bring it up for a vote. I believe if it is brought to a vote, it has the opportunity to pass.‚ÄĚ
Renee Gamela, a Hanna spokeswoman, said ENDA is good for business.
‚ÄúRep.¬†Hanna¬†would like ENDA to receive a vote in the House when it is clear that there are sufficient votes for passage,” Gamela said. “He intends to speak directly with his colleagues about why, as a small business owner, he believes supporting the legislation is good for economic competitiveness, individual liberty and our party.‚ÄĚ
As articulated by Pelosi, one approach seen as a pathway for passage of ENDA in the House would be similar to what happened with reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Amid public pressure, the House in February passed a bill with protections for LGBT victims of domestic violence after the Republican version of the bill without the provisions failed on the floor.
Log Cabin’s Angelo said whether a vote on ENDA will take place in the House “comes down to pressure” both from Republicans in the House who support it and advocates on the outside who want to see it passed.
“I think if you had a similar push that happened with the Violence Against Women Act, where you had a tremendous surge among grassroots, and you also had GOP members of Congress urging leadership to bring this up for a vote, you got there,” Angelo said. “But it’s going to take considerable pressure. I’m not a Pollyanna when it comes to prospects in the House, but I am cautiously optimistic.”
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he sees “no basis or no need” for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when asked Thursday whether he would allow a vote on the legislation despite his misgivings on the bill.
In a response to a question from the Washington Blade on whether Republican leadership will allow a House vote on the bill, Boehner reiterated his previously stated personal opposition to ENDA.
“I am opposed to discrimination of any kind, in the workplace and any place else,” Boehner said. “But I think this legislation that I’ve dealt with as chairman of The Education & The Workforce Committee long before I was back in the leadership is unnecessary and would provide a basis for frivolous lawsuits. People are already protected in the workplace. I’m opposed to continuing this. Listen, I understand people have differing opinions on this issue, and I respect those opinions. But as someone who’s worked in the employment law area for all my years in the State House and all my years here, I see no basis or no need for this legislation.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said Boehner is “flat out wrong” on his assertions about ENDA.
‚ÄúThe late, great Senator Moynihan of New York said that everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts,‚ÄĚ Griffin said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs shocking that Speaker Boehner, entrusted by the people to make laws, is so fundamentally mistaken about what‚Äôs currently on the books. The Speaker is flat out wrong on the facts and the law.‚ÄĚ
Despite the speaker’s assertions that people “are already protected” against workplace bias, discriminating against someone for being gay is legal in 29 states and discriminating against someone for being transgender is legal in 33 states. As ThinkProgress notes, Boehner’s home state of Ohio lacks any kind of law protecting LGBT people from workplace discrimination.
Tico Almeida, president of the LGBT group Freedom to Work, said Boehner’s “excuses” for not bringing up ENDA for a vote “are just plain wrong.”
“He should know that a majority of state legislatures have failed to pass LGBT workplace protections,” Almeida said. “We will continue to work with House Republicans who support ENDA to push for a vote, but the best thing that could happen for ENDA right now is President Obama leading by example and signing the executive order.”
Watch the video here (courtesy ThinkProgress)
A transcript of the exchange follows.
Washington Blade: Mr. Speaker, last week in the Senate, 10 Republicans joined the Democratic caucus in approving the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Proponents of the bill say there are sufficient votes in this chamber to pass it on the floor. Despite your misgivings on the bill, will Republican leadership allow a vote on that bill so members can have their say?
John Boehner: I am opposed to discrimination of any kind, in the workplace and any place else. But I think this legislation that I’ve dealt with as chairman of The Education & The Workforce Committee long before I was back in the leadership is unnecessary and would provide a basis for frivolous lawsuits. People are already protected in the workplace. I’m opposed to continuing this. Listen, I understand people have differing opinions on this issue, and I respect those opinions. But as someone who’s worked in the employment law area for all my years in the State House and all my years here, I see no basis or no need for this legislation.
A group of 10 House members comprised of five Republicans and five Democrats is amping up the pressure on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring to the floor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
In a Dec. 3 missive, the bipartisan group of lawmakers ‚ÄĒ led by gay Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and bisexual Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) ‚ÄĒ call on Boehner to “bring this timely and commonsense legislation to a vote” before the end of the 113th Congress.
“Job discrimination against any American creates an uneven playing field that runs contrary to the basic notion of equality and our economic efficiency,” the lawmakers write. “What matters most is not that we share the exact same beliefs as our co-workers or employees, but that we take pride in our work, respect our co-workers and customers, and get the job done.”
The five Republicans who signed the letter are the five Republican co-sponsors of the bill: Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) and Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.).
On the other side of the aisle, the five Democrats who signed the letter are Maloney and Sinema as well as gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.).
The legislation already passed the Senate last month in a historic 64-32 bipartisan vote. Ten Republicans voted with the Democratic caucus in approving the bill.
In the push to bring it to a House vote, proponents of the bill, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the White House, have said sufficient votes are present for passage if the legislation comes to the floor.
The lead signers of the letter ‚ÄĒ Maloney and Sinema ‚ÄĒ had previously incurred the wrath of progressive LGBT leaders for joining the House Republicans in votes over Obamacare that led to the shutdown of the federal government.
In remarks about economy mobility at the Center for American Progress on Wednesday, President Obama encouraged passage of ENDA as he rattled off a series of legislative items he supports.
“It‚Äôs time to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act so workers can‚Äôt be fired for who they are or who they love,” Obama said.
Despite these efforts, a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act seems in doubt. Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesperson, said in response to the letter, “The Speaker has been clear on this issue.”
In fact, momentum on the bill seems to have stalled in the weeks following the Senate vote. Although the bill was gaining supporters in the House at the time of the Senate vote and now has 201 sponsors, the latest additions are all Democrats and no additional co-sponsors have been added since Nov. 18.
LGBT workers are apparently caught in a standoff between the White House and Congress as Boehner has consistently said he opposes the legislation and President Obama continues to withhold an executive order barring LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors.
Asked by the Washington Blade during his news conference last week whether the growth of co-sponsors demonstrates the need for allowing a vote on the bill, Boehner reiterated he sees no need for ENDA.
“As I said last week, I’m opposed to discrimination in any case, but I don’t believe that we need additional frivolous litigation in the employment area,” Boehner said.
Gay Republican groups are criticizing Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) over his reported comments that gay congressional candidates should not receive money from the Republican Party to run for office.
The groups were responding to an article published late Thursday in Politico, which¬†cited a half-dozen anonymous sources as saying Forbes has undertaken “a lengthy crusade” to convince the National Republican Congressional Committee to drop support for gay Republican candidates.
Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said Forbes’ position indicates he wants to relegate Republicans to minority status in the U.S. House.
“You either want Republicans to win, or you don’t ‚ÄĒ it’s as simple as that,” Angelo said. “Apparently, Congressman Forbes does not. Thankfully, the real GOP leaders in the House know how to pick winners, and their money is on Richard Tisei and Carl DeMaio.”
Among the gay Republican congressional candidates cited by Politico are Massachusetts Republican Richard Tisei, who narrowly lost in his challenge to unseat Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) last year and is considering a rematch, as well as Carl DeMaio, who’s seeking to represent the San Diego area in the House.
Another gay candidate seeking to carry the Republican banner in a bid for a congressional seat not mentioned in the Politico piece is Dan Innis, a University of New Hampshire administrator in a same-sex marriage who’s seeking to unseat Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.).
In a statement provided to the Blade, DeMaio said he focused on winning his congressional race and not the comments from the Virginia politician.
“Under Mr. Forbes, San Diegans are not focused on sexual orientation,” DeMaio said. “To the contract, I’m winning this district because San Diegans are looking for fresh leadership in Washington to reform wasteful government spending, revitalize the economy and hold government programs accountable.”
Tisei didn’t would immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment, and Innis couldn’t be reached.
Ross¬†Hemminger, co-director of GOProud, said Forbes’ behavior is “disappointing.”
“This type of rhetoric is symptomatic¬†of someone who does not understand the importance of being a team player,” Hemminger said. “Our party cannot win elections by appealing to the lowest common denominator amongst the minority of American voters. This type of rhetoric embarrasses Republicans everywhere, and it is not helpful.”
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was succinct when asked about the issue during his news conference on Thursday.
In response to a question about whether Republican money should go to gay congressional candidates, Boehner replied, “I do.”
Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), accused Boehner of being disingenuous in his answer and took the opportunity to bash gay Republican candidates as well as the speaker’s failure to bring up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for a vote.
‚ÄúLGBT Americans are more interested in passing ENDA and expanding freedom and equality in our country than Speaker Boehner‚Äôs insincere efforts to marry himself to extreme gay Republican candidates,” Hammill said.
Forbes, who scored “0″ in the Human Rights Campaign’s most recent congressional scorecard, is known for his anti-LGBT record in Congress.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Virginia Republican has supported the anti-gay American Family Association and was set to headline one of its fundraisers before canceling at the last minute.
Forbes is among the 59 sponsors of a proposed U.S. constitutional amendment in the House that would ban same-sex marriage throughout the country. As ThinkProgress notes, Forbes spoke out against ENDA on the House floor in 2007, saying the LGBT anti-bias bill will lead “activist judges to redefine the institution of marriage.”
In the Politico piece, Forbes is quoted as saying he believes Republican leaders can “do whatever they want to do” in terms of giving money to congressional candidates, but is¬†concerned about House members being asked to contribute to the campaigns.
‚ÄúThere would be a different situation if they tried to force other members to give money,‚ÄĚ Forbes said.
As Politico notes, the NRCC is partially funded by collecting tens of millions of dollars from House Republicans, who pay dues to the organization.
NRCC Chair Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) was quoted as saying in Politico that the policy of his organization is to contribute money to Republican candidates ‚ÄĒ even if they identify as gay.
‚ÄúOur decisions on the Republican nominees we support will not be based on race, gender or sexual orientation but will be based on the strength of their candidacy and their ability to defeat Democrats,” Walden said.
News is breaking now over Forbes’ objections to gay congressional candidates, according to Politico, amid speculation over who’ll replace Rep. Buck McKeon (D-Calif.) as chair of the House Armed Services Committee after his expected retirement next year.
Forbes has been mentioned as a possible successor, but McKeon’s chief of staff has reportedly said his boss expects Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) to be the next chair.
“Throwing solid conservative contenders under the bus in a cynical and hopeless attempt to gain a chairmanship is beyond the pale,” Angelo said. “Congressman Forbes would do more to help his image by supporting efforts to grow the Republican House majority rather than undermine it.”
Albert Einstein said, ‚ÄúInsanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.‚ÄĚ
Clearly we have a Republican House of Representatives whose leadership has either gone insane, lost the will to lead or found their ability to do so non-existent. Some might suggest the inmates have taken over the asylum.
Republicans lost the battle of the budget in the eyes of the American people despite or because of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) making a spectacle of himself and reinforcing the idea that he is the next Joseph McCarthy. He is smarter than McCarthy but will end up in the dustbin of history having created havoc but accomplished nothing. Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas wrote in the Washington Post, ‚ÄúJohn Boehner isn‚Äôt even trying to pretend his House of Representatives is a sane place anymore.‚ÄĚ
After the Senate‚Äôs rejection for possibly the 40th time, the House tried to repeal Obamacare, Boehner‚Äôs leadership team looked at switching tactics and finding ways to shove their shenanigans down the throats of the American public using the debt ceiling bill as their next vehicle. But the right wing rebelled. According to Klein and Soltas, the House GOP debt limit bill that Boehner first proposed, ‚ÄúIsn‚Äôt a serious governing document. It‚Äôs not even a plausible opening bid. It‚Äôs a cry for help.‚ÄĚ They go on to say that the proposed bill included, ‚ÄúIn return for a one-year suspension of the debt ceiling, House Republicans are demanding a year-long delay of Obamacare, Rep. Paul Ryan‚Äôs tax reform plan, the Keystone XL pipeline, more offshore oil drilling, more drilling on federally protected lands, rewriting of ash coal regulations, a suspension of the Environmental Protection Agency‚Äôs efforts to regulate carbon emissions, more power over the regulatory process in general, reform of the federal employee retirement program, an overhaul of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, more power over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau‚Äôs budget, repeal of the Social Services Block Grant, more means-testing in Medicare, repeal of the Public Health trust fund, and more. It’s tempting to think that this is Boehner teaching his conference a lesson.‚ÄĚ They go on to say, ‚ÄúBut this is really the conference teaching Boehner a lesson. He had so little support to raise the debt ceiling at all ‚ÄĒ and so little trust from his members that he had a strategy to maximize their leverage ‚ÄĒ that this is the bill he had to present. At this point, Boehner either can’t stop them, or he’s too exhausted to try.‚ÄĚ
Then over the weekend Republicans pretended they only wanted a delay of one year in Obamacare in order to keep the government open and then in the middle of the night added language that would have allowed an employer or insurance company to opt out of preventive care for women, i.e. birth control.
Tuesday morning, Oct. 1 at 12 a.m., the government officially shut down. No surprise that only 10 percent of the people approve of how Congress is working. Rational people in the Republican Party, and there must be some, must stand up to the right wing and say enough. Boehner should assume the mantle of leadership and regain some respect.
The far right is leading the Republican Party down a path to obscurity.¬† They have safe congressional seats for a period of time but eventually even voters in those Districts will come to their senses. They will understand they have lost the fight and the presidency for the next decade and states like Virginia will move into the Democratic column.
The leftover moderate Republican leadership should take a page from the Vatican where the Pope recognized you can‚Äôt continue to build the church on fringe views and said it is time to get back to its basic mission and stop the focus on contraception, marriage equality and abortion. The mission of Congress is to govern. Some may disagree with Obamacare, marriage equality, immigration reform or a host of other issues, but the country is ready to move forward and unless Republicans want to be left behind they need to move forward too.
The Democratic Party faced the same concerns in the past and found the party locked out of the presidency for years. The left wing believed their issues were more important than forming a consensus. While they haven‚Äôt abandoned their views, they have come to understand that you can‚Äôt hold the nation hostage to a position that doesn‚Äôt have majority support.
The Republican Party will either change or become irrelevant.
Nick Vera, an administrative assistant at the National Institutes for Health, has spent a lot of time resting and working on home projects since he was furloughed on Tuesday when the federal government partially shut down. The Kensington, Md., resident who is deaf also went for a bike ride on Thursday to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather that has enveloped the D.C. metropolitan area in recent days.
‚ÄúI enjoy working with people every day,‚ÄĚ Vera told the Washington Blade through an interpreter during the monthly Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Employees of the Federal Government (GLOBE) happy hour that took place at Cobalt in Dupont Circle on Thursday night. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm missing people; I‚Äôm now missing pay.‚ÄĚ
Signs of the partial government shutdown that has left more than 800,000 federal employees furloughed abound throughout D.C.
The lesbian-owned Pizza Paradiso, which has restaurants in Dupont Circle, Georgetown and Alexandria, will offer a $2 beer special to any furloughed federal employee who shows their government identification during the shutdown. JR.‚Äôs on 17th Street, N.W., has a similar offer, while nearby Level One referenced furloughed employees in a sign outside its Dupont Circle location on Thursday that advertised $6 burgers.
The shutdown inspired a number of team names during Nellie‚Äôs weekly trivia night on Wednesday. These include ‚ÄúTurned-Away NIH Cancer Kids,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúCruz Makes a Boehner Shutdown, Too‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúObamacare Killed the Panda Porn Star.‚ÄĚ
Ken, a furloughed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration staffer who did not give the Blade his last name, has been with the agency since 1993. He told the Blade during the Federal GLOBE happy hour that he took a long bike ride on Wednesday.
He, like Vera, has also tackled some household chores.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs all I really can do,‚ÄĚ Ken said. ‚ÄúWe couldn‚Äôt take any work home with us and that‚Äôs really what‚Äôs left for me to do.‚ÄĚ
Dennis Palaganis, a D.C. resident who has been a software engineer at the Department of Homeland Security since May, has also done errands he‚Äôs ‚Äúignored for a long time‚ÄĚ since he was furloughed on Tuesday. He told the Blade he has also reconnected with people and spent a lot of time on Facebook since the partial government shutdown.
‚ÄúIt wasn‚Äôt really something I had prepared for,‚ÄĚ Palaganis said during the Federal GLOBE happy hour. ‚ÄúI didn‚Äôt have a bucket list of things that I wanted to do‚ÄĒoh in case of shutdown do these things. I‚Äôm just kind of playing it by ear.‚ÄĚ
The furloughed federal employees with whom the Blade spoke on Thursday all blamed Congress ‚Äď and Tea Party Republicans in particular ‚Äď for the partial government shutdown.
‚ÄúTheir style of government is not geared toward compromise,‚ÄĚ Palaganis said, referring to their efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare that took effect on Tuesday. ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre basically holding the federal workers and contractors hostage.‚ÄĚ
Federal GLOBE President Len Hirsch, who has worked for the Smithsonian for 24 years and is currently furloughed, said members of Congress whom he described as ‚Äújerks‚ÄĚ are ‚Äúplaying games with the‚ÄĚ U.S. economy and its ability to help people around the world. He also lamented the impact the shutdown will have on police officers, security guards, cafeteria workers, gift shop clerks and others with less financial means than he.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre being made to pay an awful price for the egos of a bunch of our senators and Congress people,‚ÄĚ Hirsch told the Blade. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs just not right.‚ÄĚ
Furloughed employees with whom the Blade spoke were not optimistic they would return to work in the coming days or even weeks.
‚ÄúI think it‚Äôs going to go on for a little while,‚ÄĚ said Mark Lerro, a Capitol Hill resident who has worked with the Transportation Security Agency for five years.
Observers have begun to note it is possible President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other congressional leaders could reach a deal to fund the federal government around the Oct. 17 debt ceiling deadline.
Vera told the Blade he is ‚Äúhopeful‚ÄĚ as he discussed the meeting between Obama, Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that took place at the White House on Wednesday. He added, however, he feels it is ‚Äúreally hard to predict‚ÄĚ when he and other furloughed federal employees will return to work.
‚ÄúBoth parties and the president really have to come together,‚ÄĚ Vera said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm going to wait and see.‚ÄĚ