House Moves Towards Supporting Backpay for Federal Employees

On the second day of the government shutdown, signs emerged from the fractured House that Congress is likely to pay federal workers for the time lost

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Larry Downing / Reuters

A furloughed federal employee holds a sign on the steps to the U.S. Capitol after the government shut down on Capitol Hill on Oct. 1, 2013.

On the second day of the government shutdown, signs emerged from the fractured House that Congress is likely to pay federal workers for the time lost.

Virginia Democratic Rep. Jim Moran and Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland have introduced measures in the House and Senate to retroactively pay the 800,000 workers who have been furloughed. This follows the example set after the last shutdown in 1995 and 1996, when federal employees were compensated for lost time.

Moran’s bill initially garnered 10 co-sponsors, 8 of them Democrats, all of them from Maryland, Virginia, and DC, three of the top five states with the highest percentage of government workers, according to Gallup. Cardin’s proposal has the same language and 14 co-sponsors, all Democrats. But since both resolutions were introduced at the beginning of the week, support for backpay has snowballed to representatives across the country and party lines, and in their remarks to TIME, many House Republicans have agreed that paying furloughed workers is the right thing to do.

“We all recognize that federal workers are an unintended consequence here. And they would be here working and taking their pay if they could,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), one of the most conservative members in the Republican conference. “I support paying furloughed workers.”

“It’s just simply not fair to them,” said House Deputy Whip Tom Cole (R-Okla.). “This is not their fault.”

“It’s regrettable—this government temporarily shutdown—so let’s get it open and let’s get the money back,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the Appropriations committee, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) all told TIME they would support backpay.

Moran’s press office confirmed that by Wednesday night the resolution had garnered 97 co-sponsors, including 8 Republicans: Reps. Rob Wittman, Frank Wolf, Rob Bishop, Randy Forbes, Tim Griffin, Scott Rigell, Austin Scott, and Chris Smith. With a Democratic majority in the Senate that is likely to support back pay, the main question remains what the House leadership will do.

“We’re focused on getting Washington Democrats to the table so we can negotiate an end to the government shutdown,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for Speaker John Boehner. “We haven’t addressed that issue at this point.”

During a government shutdown, the public suffers from cuts in food inspections and cancer research, lax implementation of air pollution rules, and even the increased possibility of U.S. intelligence agents to flip. And the workers that provide these services, “non-essential” employees, worry about how to pay for their basic needs. While the House has held up funding the government at current levels to delay, defund, and repeal aspects of the Affordable Care Act, members are increasingly moving towards coming together to honor the payments forfeited October 1.

“The human elements to this is that there are parents out there right now who are rightfully really nervous because of this dysfunctional place. They are freaking out about paying rent or paying a mortgage,” said Rep. Trey Radel, a Tea Party Republican from Florida. “I want to do whatever I can to help with that.”

14 comments
grape_crush
grape_crush

> On the second day of the government shutdown, signs emerged from the fractured House that Congress is likely to pay federal workers for the time lost.

How about kids in Head Start for the education they will miss? Or an indigent mother and their children for the meals they are missing? Or an employee in a company injured because a safety inspection didn't happen? Or...or...or...

If you're working, you should get paid, yes, but why should just one portion of the people affected by this debacle remain unaffected while others don't?



CharlesBoyer
CharlesBoyer

If Congress wants to make a symbolic gesture, perhaps they should vote for themselves and their staffs to receive no pay until they can get their act together.  That's the part they don't talk about -- they still get their paychecks and fat-cat benefits while they let the rest of the government languish.

CharlesBoyer
CharlesBoyer

Sounds like the Republicans are simply trying to take the political pressure off of themselves.  If the Democrats don't go along with them, then of course they'll be painted as the bad guys.

Bottom line is that Congress needs to start acting like grownups and prevent the US from defaulting on its obligations.  

MrObvious
MrObvious

 “It’s just simply not fair to them,” said House Deputy Whip Tom Cole (R-Okla.). “This is not their fault.”


So when you guys holler 'DAH government is dah problem' it's not actually the workers (correct) it's you guys.

Are the lights on yet?

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

 "It’s just simply not fair to them,” said House Deputy Whip Tom Cole (R-Okla.). “This is not their fault.”

That's odd. I have it on good authority that Federal workers are the devil incarnate. Tom Cole told me so

sacredh
sacredh

I think they should take it a step further. Those federal employees that went to work in essential positions should get a bonus for being put through hell by our esteemed representatives.

retiredvet
retiredvet

So, apparently we've reached the stage where policy by symbolic gesture is a substitute for governance.

ViableOp
ViableOp

Here is an article that compares the compensation levels of federal government employees to those in the private sector:

http://viableopposition.blogspot.ca/2013/10/comparing-federal-government-and.html

It will be fascinating to see how long it takes before someone in the Senate or in Congress proposes either a significant cut in staffing levels or a realignment in compensation to bring it more in line with the private sector.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

“The human elements to this is that there are parents out there right now who are rightfully really nervous because of this dysfunctional place.” said Rep. Trey Radel, without a sense of the irony, a Tea Party Republican from Florida. 



bobcn
bobcn

@CharlesBoyer

"If Congress wants to make a symbolic gesture,  perhaps they should vote for themselves and their staffs to receive no pay until they can get their act together"

Absolutely not.  There are congressmen who are not independently wealthy; who depend on a paycheck to support their families.  I do not want them being pressured by wealthy members (who won't care about their pay) to change their votes in order to protect their families.

If there were a way to deny pay only to the gopers who have created this debacle I'd support that.  But I don't see a way to do that.

Not everyone in congress is causing this craziness.  Most congressmen are good and responsible people, even if you don't agree with them.  I don't want everyone being punished because a small contingent of jacka$$es are causing damage to the country.  Randomly hurting people to get your way is not what responsible people do -- it's what teabaggers do.

bobcn
bobcn

@retiredvet 

Did the 40+ house votes to repeal the ACA give you that idea?

CharlesBoyer
CharlesBoyer

@retiredvet That's been the standard operating procedure the the Tea Party since they were taken over by the hardcore right wingnuts.

sacredh
sacredh

@Lavira76, I like the trick you do with the ping pong balls. The Great Dane thing looked painful though.