WASHINGTON – Republicans in the Senate have hesitated to support a bill that would provide back pay to furloughed federal workers fearing that such support would display too overt a concern for American citizens.
“It’s premature to do it right now,” said John Cornyn (Texas), the second-ranking Senate Republican. “I don’t think that these workers would feel comfortable getting paid until it’s the right time for us.”
“We weren’t elected to make popular decisions,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “I’m not exactly sure what we were elected to do, but it wasn’t to pass bills just because the public supports them. Buckling under public pressure now would only make us look weak.”
Because the back pay bill passed unanimously in the House of Representatives, many House Republicans say they are surprised that the bill has stalled in the Senate.
“I’m not necessarily proud of all of the bills I have supported,” said a House Republican who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. “However, when a small group hesitates to approve a bi-partisan measure that would ease the pain they are voluntarily inflicting on the people they supposedly represent…there’s a word for that, and it doesn’t even rhyme with democracy.”
The back pay bill is not the only shutdown-related legislation to receive scrutiny in the Senate after being approved in the House. The Senate has also rejected House bills to fund government programs that provide disaster relief, health research and food aid for low-income pregnant women.
Despite the swift passage of these bills by their party members in the House, Republican leaders in the Senate maintain that this is not the right time to stop punishing Americans for no reason.
“There’s nothing more unattractive than a representative who’s too showy about his concern for the people who elected him,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “If there’s one thing voters respect, it’s a coy congressman.”
Sen. Cruz in particular argued that the public should not conclude from recent events that Republican Senators do not care about the American people.
“I love the people of this great nation like I love my children,” said Cruz. “I just want to do what’s best for them. And no, I don’t let my children have health insurance, either.”