A bipartisan proposal to pay furloughed federal workers retroactively for the shutdown period has quickly gained traction in the House, where a vote on the measure is expected Saturday.
The Democrat-controlled Senate is likely to pass the bill if it meets with approval in the House, and the White House budget office has made clear that President Obama will sign the legislation if it arrives on his desk.
Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) first introduced the bill a few days ago and House GOP leaders announced plans to hold a vote on it on Friday.
Moran said Republican leaders agreed to hold a vote on the bill in part because he convinced a handful of Republicans from across the country, including Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah), to support the bill. Both of those lawmakers represent districts with significant federal-employee populations.
Moran also said White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough had assured him that President Obama will sign the bill “the moment” it is passed in the Senate, where Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) plans to sponsor the measure.
A vote in the Senate would likely occur next week at the earliest, but Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) wouldn’t outright commit to holding a vote when asked by reporters Friday.
In the House, Moran expects nearly unanimous support among Democrats and “at least five or six dozen” Republicans to support the bill.
“No Democrat has told me yet that they would not vote for it. The leadership will vote for it. Nancy [Pelosi] will, Steny [Hoyer] will, I got most of them as co-sponsors,” he said.
After previous government shutdowns, non-essential personnel were reimbursed for time lost within a few days, but Moran said there was no guarantee it would happen again.
“For one thing, in the past we already had a number of appropriations bills passed. The entire government shut down in this case and there hasn’t been any assurance that they would get reimbursed,” he said. “It’s understandable that the federal workforce is feeling such anxiety. It’s only fair to relieve that anxiety. They’re coming into my office and breaking down crying because they don’t know whether they’re going to be able to make their mortgage payment. It’s the right thing to do and I think we’re going to do the right thing.”