Westmoreland’s staff paid, but not Fayette’s feds
Air traffic controllers go unpaid; press rep ducks questions about staff, views on shutdown, debt ceiling battles
The partial federal government shutdown due to the political standoff in Congress has forced more than 160 employees at the Atlanta regional air traffic control center (TRACON) in Peachtree City to work without pay for more than two weeks.
That may be the tip of the iceberg, as demographic data from 2004 indicates how much Fayette’s economy depends on the salaries of federal government employees. According to city-data.com, back in 2004 Fayette residents employed by the federal government were paid $49.2 million in federal salaries and wages.
While The Citizen had hoped to locate more recent data via the U.S. Census Bureau, that agency’s website has been shuttered due to the partial government shutdown, which has devolved into a political battle between Republicans and Democrats over Obamacare, federal spending and other related issues.
Despite the shutdown’s effect on Fayette County and other counties in his 3rd Congressional District, Congressman Lynn Westmoreland said Tuesday that he has returned his temporarily furloughed staffers back to work.
Westmoreland said that move was based on legislation to pay all furloughed staff members that as of Tuesday morning which had only passed the U.S. House of Representatives, but not the Senate and not signed by the President as required for a bill to become law. Westmoreland claims that legislation had the “support” of President Barack Obama.
Westmoreland’s office has refused to disclose how many of his staff members were furloughed, how many were being paid, how many were not paid and how many were deemed “essential” and therefore were paid in full despite the partial shutdown of the federal government.
Westmoreland’s district in Georgia includes much of central and south Fayette County along with all of Coweta County among others.
The Citizen also posed several questions to Westmoreland’s spokesperson, who declined to answer them directly but instead pointed to previous statements he has made on the federal government shutdown.
The unanswered questions included:
• What specific actions is Congressman Westmoreland taking to end the impasse?
• What is the Congressman’s position on the debt ceiling and whether he is willing to vote against it and risk America’s ability to borrow in the future and furthermore causing a potential economic recession?
• Given that the Congressman has previously been on the record as favoring and encouraging a shutdown of the federal government, how does he justify such actions in the current day, especially given the low rating Congress as a whole has received?
Part of Westmoreland’s defense is that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has passed a number of individual bills to fund specific parts of the federal government that have not been considered by the Senate and have specifically been opposed by the president.
But it also came to light Tuesday that House Republicans modified procedural rules of the chamber that would allow House Democrats to send the bill to the House floor for a vote.
Westmoreland also contends that his office “runs on as little money as possible to properly serve my constituents, and for that reason I have returned money every year since taking office.”