House unanimously approves back pay for 800,000 furloughed federal workers
By Carrie Dann, Political Reporter, NBC News
House on Saturday unanimously approved legislation to provide
retroactive pay for furloughed federal workers after the government
shutdown ends. The vote was 407-0.
The White House said Friday
that it "strongly supports" the legislation and urged its "swift"
passage, even while warning that the single bill alone "will not address
the serious consequences of the funding lapse."
The Senate is
still deciding how to proceed with the legislation, a Democratic
leadership aide said, adding that it is unlikely the Senate will act on
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate
floor that it is "cruel" to promise pay in the future but not allow
federal workers to go back to work while the shutdown continues.
"It's really cruel to tell workers they'll receive back pay once the
government opens and then refuse to open the government," he said.
"Let's open the government."
Reid said the message being sent to
federal workers is: "Stay home. Watch TV. Play chess. Whatever you want
to do, because we won't let you work."
Approximately 800,000 government employees are furloughed during the shutdown.
deemed essential and who are currently on the job will be paid for
their work during the shutdown, although their paychecks could be
delayed. But furloughed employees need congressional approval to receive
After past shutdowns, Congress passed similar measures,
but federal employee unions had warned early in this impasse that there
was no guarantee that Congress would act..
During the budget
stalemate, the GOP-led House has passed a series of bills to fund some
of the most popular programs impacted by the funding lapse - like
national parks and care for veterans. But the Senate has declined to
take up those piecemeal measures, saying that the government should
instead be fully reopened.
"I'm glad to see at the very least that
the Senate has plans to take up this bill," Rep. Hal Rogers R-Ky., said
of the Senate's likely action on the back pay legislation. "Stop the
presses! The Senate's going to take up a bill!"
The back pay
measure was introduced by Democrat Jim Moran of Northern Virginia, which
has one of the country's highest populations of federal workers.
issue is fairness," Moran said on the House floor. "It's just wrong for
hundreds of thousands of federal employees not to know whether they're
going to be able to make their mortgage payment, not to know whether
they're going to be able to provide for their families."
statement, House Speaker John Boehner lauded the passage of the measure
and called for a resolution to the shutdown that includes measures to
modify the Obama-backed health care reform legislation.
encouraging to see both parties come together to provide fairness for
the 800,000 federal workers hurt by this shutdown," he said. "Now we
should do something about the 800,000 jobs being destroyed by the
president's health care law."
Democrats continued to say they want
GOP leaders to allow a vote on a government funding bill without
add-ons that would make major changes to Obamacare.
Saying that ensuring retroactive pay was "the right thing to do,"
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said the fact that furloughed workers
remain unable to go to work "highlights the sheer folly" of the ongoing
The House's move comes as the shutdown
stretches into its fifth day. In an interview with The Associated Press,
President Barack Obama again called on House leaders to put the "clean"
funding bill up for a vote.
"We know that there are enough
members in the House of Representatives -- Democrats and Republicans --
who are prepared to vote to reopen the government today," he said. "The
only thing that is keeping that from happening is Speaker Boehner has
made a decision that he is going to hold out to see if he can get
additional concessions from us."
If the Senate does take up the bill, a fast-track process could allow
the bill to be passed as early as Saturday, although that move would
require every senator to agree.
In an interview with NBC News,
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas -- whose lengthy argument against
Obamacare last month galvanized the GOP opposition to the short-term
budget bill that led to the ongoing shutdown -- would not say whether or
not he will object to the agreement.
"I support the House working
cooperatively to resolve this, to fund the government, and at the same
time, to prevent the enormous harms Obamacare is inflicting on millions
of Americans," he said.
Sunday, January 21 2018 12:50 AM EST2018-01-21 05:50:24 GMT
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