6 tone-deaf statements from the government shutdown
9/11, kids with cancer, and a stinky House weight room
Sixteen days into the federal shutdown, we appear to be on the verge of having a fully functioning — though not necessarily functional — government again.
The Senate announced Wednesday afternoon it had a bipartisan deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. Leaders from both parties said they hoped to have it through both chambers of Congress and signed by the president by the end of the day.
So with the shutdown all but over, here's a look back at some of the more puzzling statements lawmakers made as they stumbled toward undoing the mess they created.
Towel serviceThough all "non-essential" government functions stopped during the shutdown, essential services remained open — which apparently includes the House gym.
While gym employees stayed home, lawmakers were still allowed access to the facilities. But with no one to clean up the place, lawmakers started to gripe about its growing griminess; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called it "rank."
Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) took the criticism one step further, bemoaning in a radio interview the loss of towel service.
"There's hardly anybody working down there. There's no towel service," he said. "We're doing our own laundry down there. And we pay a fee to belong to the House gym."
PaychecksThough furloughed workers were not paid during the shutdown, lawmakers kept their paychecks. While some 250 gave up their pay, and others donated theirs to charity, a few insisted, quite loudly, that they deserved every cent of their money.
"I need my paycheck," Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) told a Raleigh TV station. "That's the bottom line."
Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) also strongly defended his pay, though not in the most eloquent fashion.
"Dang straight," he said when asked by the Omaha World Herald if he would keep collecting his paycheck.
"I've got a nice house and a kid in college, and I'll tell you we cannot handle it," he added. "Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That's just not going to fly."
(Both later backtracked, with Terry saying he was "ashamed of my comments," and Ellmers going so far as to have her pay withheld.)
Their original sentiment, though, was shared with at least one member from across the aisle.
"I think every American should get paid for his or her labor," Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) said. "That includes members of Congress. I didn't create the shutdown."
FunThough most political journalists, lawmakers, and furloughed federal workers may disagree, Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) told NPR the shutdown was "my idea of fun."
Schweikert, who backed the Republican attempt to defund ObamaCare, also defended the tactic in retrospect, and predicted Democrats would eventually cave on the health care law.
Kids with cancerSome felt Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) almost gave up the Democrats' leverage with an awkward answer to a loaded question about government funding. When asked if he would back a piecemeal bill to restore funds only to the National Institutes of Health — which runs clinical trials on children with cancer — Reid shot the idea down, saying, "Why would we want to do that?"
Conservatives seized on the comment as proof of Reid's heartlessness. "Help kids with cancer? Reid asks: 'Why would we want to do that?"' blared a Fox News headline.
Reid, obviously, was not hating on cancerous children, but rather nixing the GOP's plan for reopening only the parts of government it liked. The full exchange looked a whole lot better than the pull quote, too, though Reid's framing was admittedly not the most graceful way to parry the question.
9/11Very rarely, if ever, is it a good idea to compare something to the September 11 attacks. Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) did just that in rallying his caucus members to vote for an ObamaCare delay.
"I said, 'Like 9/11, let's roll,'" he recalled to MSNBC, referencing a famous quote uttered by a passenger aboard United Airlines Flight 93 as he rallied fellow passengers to retake the plane from Islamic terrorists.
No back payThe House voted 407-0 last weekend to provide retroactive pay to furloughed workers once the shutdown ended. That didn't sit well with Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.).
"I agree 100 percent with you," Yoho told a town hall meeting participant who had asked if furloughed workers "home watching Netflix" should be denied back pay. "If they're not working, they shouldn't get paid."