Click to watch Rep. Rigell on MSNBC's the Daily Rundown sharing his view that Congress should remain in session in August to work through the remaining appropriations bills to avoid a damaging continuing resolution.
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By: Bill Bartel
July 25, 2013
Should people be upset that Congress is about to head out for a five-week summer recess while major budget issues fester and tens of thousands of federal employees are taking pay cuts?
Two Virginia legislators say yes.
"What message are we sending to people?" Sen. Mark Warner said Thursday. "We're about to break for a month when people are getting 20 percent pay cuts.... People have a right to be angry."
Waving an inch-thick sampling of more than 500 emails and letters from upset workers, Warner took to the Senate floor Thursday afternoon, telling colleagues that Congress' inability to avoid mandatory budget cuts this year and possibly next year are causing "real consequences on real people, with potentially devastating impacts."
"None of the letters are saying this is all the Democrats' fault or the Republicans' fault," said Warner, a Democrat. "They are saying regardless of party, regardless of whether you're in the House or the Senate, your job is to get this fixed."
As a show of solidarity, Warner said he was going to donate 20 percent of his Senate salary from now until the end of September to a federal employee assistance fund.
On the other side of the Capitol on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia Beach delivered a similarly firm lecture on the budget impasse, urging his colleagues to forgo their recess, which is set to begin in a week.
"It may be House tradition to break, but I submit that it's not wise," said Rigell, a Republican.
Warner and Rigell's displeasure is sparked by a continuing stalemate in Congress that is holding up passage of spending and budget bills. With the new fiscal year set to begin Oct. 1, Congress has little time to agree to a spending plan and avoid a second year of automatic budget cuts.
Defense officials have warned that if the automatic cuts, which will trim $52 billion from the Pentagon budget in 2014, aren't stopped, there will likely be more unpaid days off next year.
If no budget is approved by Oct. 1, Congress would need to pass a temporary bill - called a continuing resolution - to pay the government's bill. Without the funding, the government would shut down.
"Fact is, we aren't even close to passing those bills," said Rigell, who proposed legislators put in 11-hour workdays until they complete a budget. "This is not without consequence. It damages our economy and job creation. It damages our military in a very real way; ultimately, it hurts hardworking American families."
Warner said Congress needs to understand the hardships facing federal workers.
"Eleven furlough days don't sound like much, but over the course of the year, the loss of nearly $4,000 in income is crucial," he said, reading a letter from a Woodbridge resident. "If I ran my own budget like this, I would have to fire myself."