Republican Rep. Andy Harris seemed to trivialize the consequences of a government shutdown on Friday, now well into Day 4, that’s forced hundreds of thousands to take unpaid leave, while defending his party’s strategy of passing mini funding bills that restore some–but not all–federal activities.
“There are not millions of federal workers who are furloughed,” said Harris on MSNBC, in response to a question from host Thomas Roberts about whether measures that send certain federal employees back to work, but not others, constitute a “special deal.”
800,000 workers have been furloughed as a result of Congress’ inability to agree on a spending measure that keeps the government and its agencies in business. As the shutdown claims its fourth day, House Republicans are clinging to their mantra that it’s the White House and Senate Democrats who are guilty of refusing to negotiate.
“This isn’t some damn game,” declared a defiant John Boehner during a House leadership news conference on Friday. “All we’re asking for is to sit down and have a discussion and to bring fairness–reopen the government, and bring fairness to the American people under Obamacare.”
The speaker and his party are pushing for piecemeal legislation to partially fund the government, an approach that President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have repeatedly rejected. The Democratic-controlled Senate has passed a clean continuing resolution bill that funds the whole of government on a short-term basis, but House Republicans are unwilling to vote on anything without a delay to the individual mandate portion of Obamacare, which taxes anyone without health insurance. President Obama recently moved to the postpone the law’s employer mandate until 2015, so Republicans are now demanding that small businesses and individuals receive the same delay.
Toeing his party line, Harris argued on MSNBC that passing appropriations bills is a reasonable way to “solve problems,” and that the Senate-passed short-term funding bill is the equivalent of a “special deal” for Congress.
“But isn’t it a special deal telling some federal employees they can come back from furlough and not others?” asked host Thomas Roberts.
“No, that’s within how the U.S. government works,” said Harris, before suggesting that accounts of federal furloughs have been inflated.
Watch the full interview above: