Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry Sorry for 'Hurtful' Shutdown Salary Remarks

Monday, 07 Oct 2013 06:31 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry, in a public mea culpa, says he won't collect his paycheck as long as shut-down federal workers don't get theirs.

Terry, a Republican, declared his change of heart — and issued a full apology — for his "hurtful" comments last week that went viral, the Omaha World-Herald reported Monday.

“The other day I made a statement that I would put my needs above others in crisis,” Terry said Sunday, the newspaper reported.

“I'm ashamed of my comments. It was not leadership. It is not how I was raised. It is not the nature of my character. It is not what I want to teach my sons. I apologize for my hurtful remarks when so many others are feeling the pain of Washington's dysfunction.”

Last week, Terry bluntly told the newspaper "Dang straight" when asked whether he'd continue to collect his paycheck during the government shutdown.

Then he dissed anyone who decided otherwise.

"Whatever gets them good press," the congressman dismissively remarked about lawmakers who were giving up — or giving away to charity — their pay during the shutdown.

"That's all it's going to be. God bless them. But you know what? I've got a nice house and a kid in college, and I'll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That's just not going to fly."

The salary for rank-and-file lawmakers is $174,000 a year.

"I should and will stand in the shoes of the federal civilian employees who are furloughed," Terry said. "We share the same responsibilities to pay our bills, and if they don't receive a paycheck and must take extraordinary efforts and sacrifice to pay them, then I should, too."

Terry wasn't the only one who changed his mind about collecting a check.

Republican Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry also reversed course after previously saying he'd keep collecting, adding "feel-good gestures" wouldn't solve the problem, the newspaper reported.

In a letter to be published Tuesday in the World-Herald's Public Pulse, Fortenberry wrote:

"There are a number of people who are hurting from the government shutdown, and there is a fairness argument to be made."

Another member of Nebraska's all-GOP congressional delegation, Rep. Adrian Smith, already had told The World-Herald he was suspending his checks.

But Sen. Deb Fischer described giving up pay during the shutdown as a "gimmick," and a spokesman for Sen. Mike Johanns said the senator already donates to charity, the newspaper said.

More than 100 lawmakers last week indicated they were either turning down their pay or opting to donate it to charity during the government shutdown.

Terry's refusal to give up his money was widely reported — and criticized. But in an opinion piece Monday in the newspaper, he expressed his frustration with Washington.

"I'm frustrated at the level of political gamesmanship," he wrote. "Photo opportunities and gotcha politics are no way to govern a country."

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