The Idaho congressional delegation hammered away at President Clinton Wednesday as Republicans tried to regain some high ground in the budget impasse.
Reps. Helen Chenoweth and Mike Crapo both voted to override Clinton’s vetoes of two spending bills - moves most Republicans acknowledged were mostly symbolic and had little chance to pass.
“If the president had not vetoed those bills, there would be no shutdown,” Chenoweth said after the two overrides failed.
Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, said he had supported a Senate proposal by Majority Leader Bob Dole to send all federal employees back to work at full pay on Tuesday. But he wasn’t surprised that House Republicans turned it down Wednesday.
“Dole felt enough progress had been made,” Craig said. But the House obviously wants Clinton to produce a better budget document.
Craig also placed responsibility for the partial government shutdown and reduced paychecks for some federal workers on Clinton.
Employees of agencies which do not have approved budgets received less than half their normal pay this week. In Idaho, that includes workers for the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Social Security Administration.
If an agreement is not reached between the president and Congress before mid-January, those workers might receive no paychecks, even if they remain on the job.
“They will be held whole and fully compensated,” Craig said, adding he shares federal workers’ frustration over the impasse.
Chenoweth said it is always a tragedy when people are put out of work by the action of federal agencies or the White House.
“Our loggers, miners and ranchers in Idaho are all too aware of what it’s like to lose their jobs because of federal action. And they don’t have any chance of receiving back pay,” she said.
Chenoweth hopes Congress will send Clinton a single spending bill covering all the affected agencies by the week’s end. That would return the agencies to full strength.
As to suggestions that members of Congress and the president take pay cuts until the budget is worked out, Chenoweth said through a spokeswoman that would be “nice for posturing.”
Craig said such a suggestion may have a certain visceral appeal, but it’s probably not legal, because the budgets for Congress and the White House have been approved.
“I don’t want to take a pay cut and I don’t plan to take a pay cut,” he said. “I did my work - I passed these bills and placed them squarely at the president’s feet.”