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Federal Workers Would Receive Back Pay For Shutdown Period Under New Measure

Wednesday, October 2, 2013
By Louis C. LaBrecque

Oct. 1 --About 800,000 federal civilian employees who have been told not to report to work because of the partial government shutdown that began Oct. 1 would receive retroactive pay for the duration of the shutdown under legislation introduced in the House Sept. 30 and the Senate Oct. 1.

Under the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act--which was introduced in the House as H.R. 3223 by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), along with a group of 32 original co-sponsors, including both Democrats and Republicans--all federal employees would receive retroactive pay for the duration of the federal government shutdown, regardless of individual furlough status.

The legislation is necessary, Moran said in a joint Oct. 1 statement with some of the House bill's co-sponsors, because federal employees who are furloughed during the shutdown will not get paid for the duration of the shutdown unless Congress specifically authorizes retroactive pay.

The lead sponsor of the Senate measure, which at press time had not been assigned a bill number, is Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). The text of the House and Senate bills is identical.

Congress 'Failed to Do Its Job'
“Nearly a million federal workers could lose their pay because Congress failed to do its job and keep the government up and running,” Moran said in the joint statement from the House members.

“Leaving the question of retroactive pay for furloughed employees, already shouldering much of the burden of sequestration, up to this highly divisive Congress is deeply concerning. Today's bipartisan proposal shields family pocketbooks from partisan politics and reaffirms our commitment to our federal employees,” he added.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in the statement called it “unacceptable that Congress's failure to reach a responsible agreement to fund the government will force federal workers to stay home without pay rather than serve the American people.”

“Our hardworking federal workforce--middle-class Americans who support our war fighters, defend our borders, keep our air clean and food safe, care for our veterans and fulfill many other critical services--should not have to face furloughs,” Hoyer said.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) added that Congress has provided federal employees with retroactive pay following previous government shutdowns.

“We should follow past precedent and retroactively pay our beleaguered federal employees who face furlough if the federal government shuts down on Oct. 1,” she said.

According to Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), employees at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Marshals Service “shouldn't be punished because the Congress couldn't get its job done.”

“They should be properly compensated for the hard work they do to make our nation a safer and better place,” Wolf said in the joint statement.

Although the Washington metropolitan region is home to the highest concentration of federal workers in the country, 85 percent of federal workers live outside the region, the joint statement said.

Call for 'Clean' CR
Speaking at an Oct. 1 press event featuring federal employee union leaders and House members from the Washington metropolitan area, Moran said some House Republicans have discussed legislation to allow additional federal employees in selected agencies--including the National Park Service and the Veterans Affairs Department--to report to work.

He dismissed the idea of allowing members of Congress “to pick and choose” which nonessential government functions will continue.

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said support is developing in the House for a “clean” continuing resolution that would reopen the government without conditions.

For such a measure to pass the House, moderate Republicans would need to join Democrats, Kelley said, urging House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to allow a new vote on a clean CR.

Obama Calls on Congress to Act
In a separate development, President Barack Obama in an Oct. 1 message to federal employees thanked them for their service and decried Congress's failure to keep the government open.

“I want you to know that I will keep working to get Congress to reopen the Government, restart vital services that the American people depend on, and allow public servants who have been sent home to return to work,” Obama wrote.

Obama added that the shutdown “was completely preventable.” It will end as soon as the House agrees to provide federal agencies with funding “without trying to attach highly controversial and partisan measures in the process,” he wrote.

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