As a partial shutdown approaches that would affect hundreds of thousands of federal workers, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus said that public servants should have known this was part of their jobs when they were hired.
According to The Washington Post, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., was asked about the impact of a shutdown on the Border Patrol agents and Transportation Security Administration screeners who would be required to keep working over Christmas without a paycheck.
"It’s actually part of what you do when you sign up for any public service position," Meadows reportedly said Thursday. "It’s not lost on me in terms of, you know, the potential hardship. At the same time, they know they would be required to work and even in preparation for a potential shutdown those groups within the agencies have been instructed to show up.”
Meadows took fire for those comments on social media. One of his departing colleagues in the House, Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa., in a tweet tied Meadows's comments to concerns about hiring in the federal government.
Great way to recruit highly-qualified people to serve in gvt rather than higher pay in private sector. Not only will u make less, boys & girls, but your paychecks will always be subject to kamikaze political stunts in order to avoid attacks from Rush & Hannity. Awesome. https://t.co/cIUZ3iP6DE— Ryan Costello (@RyanCostello) December 20, 2018
Others noted that Meadows's job was to govern.
Rep Meadows signed up to govern. And yet. https://t.co/p11huwd2WW— Tresa Horney (@tresahorney) December 21, 2018
Meadows did announce on Thursday night in a letter to the House Chief Administrative Officer that he also posted on Twitter that he would not be accepting a salary as long as the shutdown lasts.
Just submitted this letter to the CAO, in advance of the government funding deadline. Members of Congress shouldn't be paid when the government isn't open.— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) December 21, 2018
If there is a shutdown, I will not be accepting any of my salary for as long as it lasts. pic.twitter.com/ltH2LAr9yg
According to a Thursday Politico report, Meadows was a leading voice in pushing President Trump to stand firm on funding for his border wall.
The North Carolina Republican has not always taken such a harsh tone with federal employees. The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations embarked on a listening tour of federal agencies in 2015. During a December event that year on the Best Places to Work in the government, he said: “I close with a heartfelt thank you on behalf of Congress, and all of those who never tell you in the way that they should, that they appreciate the federal workforce. I close also with an apology for the times when you have been used as the person who is to be blamed for the inefficiencies, or the way that we should be doing business and are not.”
Another member of Congress, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., also weighed in on the shutdown and feds' finances on Thursday, comparing the plight of furloughed workers to that of those in the private sector, in a conversation relayed by Politico's Sarah Ferris on Twitter.
Tonight, I asked Scott Perry (R-Pa.) about effect of fed employees being furloughed. He argued it had no real impact since employees eventually get paid back.— Sarah Ferris (@sarahnferris) December 21, 2018
"Who’s living that they’re not going to make it to the next paycheck?"
Then compared the shutdown to a private company, specifically like GM, closing.— Sarah Ferris (@sarahnferris) December 21, 2018
"Why are government employees so sacrosanct? Private sector employees deal with this all the time... The government’s not immune to these things."
Perry's comments were also met with criticism on Twitter, including by one self-identified GS-13.
@RepScottPerry I'm a GS-13 and my family & I DO live paycheck to paycheck. While I am blessed to have this job, missing ONE check puts me in jeopardy of making my house payment, my car payment, etc. If Feds don't get paid (or pay delayed) - YOUR pay should be affected the same.— rmd (@rmd_2014) December 21, 2018
Hey @RepScottPerry there are A LOT of fed emps who live paycheck to paycheck. Unlike you, who makes a BASE SALARY of $174,000/year, most do not make that much. #RealityCheck National Park emps DEF don't make that much. - Will you be going w/o a salary during the #TrumpShutdown ? https://t.co/0qhIF2OyGq— OneLuckyGirl (@onelukygirl) December 21, 2018
The Republican comments also received pushback from other lawmakers. “ ‘They’re just federal employees,’ that’s all the Republicans think," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. “I just don’t see it that way. It’s totally unnecessary. And to think they’re going to send TSA employees and [Homeland Security Department] employees into law enforcement protection and say, ‘Someday you’ll get paid,’ over Christmas? It’s unnecessary and it’s insulting to these men and women.”
Eric Katz contributed to this story.