House passes bill to pay Transportation employees for furlough days

Thursday, March 11, 2010; B03

If you are among the nearly 2,000 Transportation Department employees who were furloughed last week because Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) temporarily blocked funding for federal highway and transportation projects, help is on the way.

The House passed legislation that would compensate those 1,922 workers, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) announced Wednesday. In a speech to the House, Connolly, sponsor of the legislation, said the bill would pay employees "who were forced out of their job for two days because of political gamesmanship on the other side of the Capitol."

Last week, Bunning said he blocked the transportation funding because Congress had not provided a way to pay for it. The measure he blocked also provided unemployment benefits and health insurance subsidies for those who had lost jobs. The furloughed federal workers "became unwitting victims of an arcane practice in the upper chamber that allows one member's objection, no matter how specious, to grind to a halt the work of the American people," Connolly said.

Connolly said the measure would prevent a 20 percent cut in the employees' next biweekly paycheck. The bill also ratifies Transportation actions that maintained minimum essential services during the two furlough days. "It's the right thing to do," he added.

But don't spend that money yet. The Senate must pass the measure before the checks get cut.

-- Joe Davidson

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