The amendments were passed late on Tuesday into early Wednesday morning. Voting is continuing on the appropriations measure Wednesday, including on a fourth amendment that would shift money from an Afghanistan security forces fund to civilian federal employee salary accounts.
“Today’s vote shows there is overwhelming support in the House to halt civilian defense furloughs. This amendment is a first step toward restoring sanity to the Defense budget and restoring pay to our nation’s civilian defense workers,” Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), sponsor of the broadest amendment, said in a statement.
Because the spending bill affects only the upcoming fiscal year, however, it apparently would provide no relief in the short run to the roughly 650,000 civilian DoD employees who recently began taking 11 unpaid furlough days through the end of September.
Pentagon officials have warned that if the department’s budget continues in fiscal 2014 at post-sequestration levels, they may have to order further furloughs and potentially even layoffs.
Approval of the broad amendment is “a strong vote of no confidence” in how the department has used furloughs to achieve sequestration savings, American Federation of Government Employees president J. David Cox Sr. said in a statement. He added, “We’ve seen little evidence that Pentagon officials intend to use furloughs differently” in the upcoming fiscal year.
Further, he said, furloughs of working capital fund employees “save no money for the Department for purposes of sequestration, yet they do drive up their organizations’ costs and undermine their productivity.”
The union lobbied on behalf of both amendments, which do not repeal sequestration nor specify how the Pentagon should achieve the required savings in other ways.