The Capitol Hill Police have been on the job since the government shut down on midnight on Tuesday without any idea of when their next paycheck will come. In the aftermath of Thursday's shooting though, the Democratic and Republican lawmakers they protect joined together to compensate with something even better than money: clapping!
The force, one of a number of law enforcement agencies active in the capital, is largely excepted from the shutdown, meaning that they still come to work but, as the Washington Post explained last month, won't get a paycheck until Congress passes a budget.
When the House of Representatives came to order after the bizarre incident behind the Supreme Court put Capitol Hill on lockdown, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland asked for the opportunity to address the body.
"At the outset," he began, "I know I join the Majority Leader in expressing our gratitude to the Capitol Police." He was then interrupted with over 30 seconds of sustained applause which evolved into a standing ovation. When the applause was finished, Hoyer concluded his remarks, turning it over to Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who seconded the sentiment. (When Cantor later posted a video of the tribute, he conveniently skipped Hoyer's part — and the applause.)
Of course, the reason the officers are subject to the uncertainty of not knowing when their next paycheck will come is because of Cantor's party in the House's refusal to fund the government unless they get some concessions on Obamacare. And it is possible that this undoubtedly heartfelt gesture from the U.S. House is the only pay the Capitol Police will get for weeks to come; payment for the force is not included in any of the piecemeal resolutions the Republicans have introduced in their efforts to goad the Democratic Senate into caving on their insistence that they won't pass anything other than full government funding.
At least one member of Congress noted the irony of offering applause in lieu of a salary. Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland tweeted:
Then he apparently thought better of it, deleting that tweet and replacing it with the one below.
All my staff safe and accounted for. Thank you to the U.S. Capitol Police for keeping us safe every day.— Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) October 3, 2013
Photo: Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island watches a police officer put on a vest. (AP)