Coburn wants to repay furloughed DOT workers from Congress's account
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is blocking Senate passage of a bill that would compensate the roughly 2,000 Transportation Department workers who were furloughed during an impasse over federal funding for highway and transportation projects.
Coburn wants to pay the workers back with $1 million from the congressional budget, rather than tapping the federal coffers. That proposal would cost each House and Senate office approximately $2,000.
"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 to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) in announcing his hold on the bill. "Congress should offset the expected cost of compensation by forgoing the increase in our own budget."
Democrats had other ideas.
"If Senator Coburn really wanted to take a stand, why doesn't he change his amendment so that it is paid for out of the Republican office accounts only?" asked Reid spokesman Jim Manley. "Seems only fair, given that they were the ones that blocked the money in the first place."
In his letter, Coburn also suggested that DOT could have tapped roughly $26 billion in savings to keep the workers employed through the impasse.
House lawmakers passed the bill on Wednesday in hopes of preventing a 20 percent cut in the employees' next biweekly pay check.
The furlough stems from Sen. Jim Bunning's opposition to an unemployment bill that included a temporary extension of federal highway funding. The Kentucky Republican disagreed on how to pay for the bill, and funding dried up for some federal highway inspectors and employees working on anti-drunk driving campaigns before the Senate eventually passed the bill.
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