Updated: 2:21 p.m.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has put a hold on legislation to provide back pay to thousands of federal workers furloughed earlier this month by Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) filibuster of an unemployment bill.
The unemployment benefits bill included a one-month extension of highway spending, which lapsed for several days during Bunning’s one-man filibuster.
Although Coburn believes restitution should be made to furloughed Department of Transportation employees, he opposes using additional taxpayer funds to do so and is demanding a vote on an amendment that would pay for it out of the budgets of all 541 House and Senate offices.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Coburn said that while the 1,992 furloughed employees of DOT deserve to be paid, Congress itself should foot the bill.
“No one believes that the 1,992 Department of Transportation employees who were recently furloughed should suffer a loss of pay because of Congress’ inability to maintain core federal programs,” Coburn wrote. He added, “I would like to offer an amendment to the bill that would transfer $1 million of the almost $100 million budget increase Congress approved for itself for 2010 to offset the cost of reimbursing those who were inconvenienced by Congress’ mismanagement of highway authorizations. This works to less than $2,000 per House and Senate office.”
Reid spokesman Jim Manley chided Coburn, noting that Republicans caused the delay in funding and arguing that they should pay the price for the reimbursements.
“Why doesn’t Sen. Coburn change his amendment so that it is paid for out of the Republican office accounts only? Seems only fair given that they were the ones that blocked the money in the first place,” Manley said.