The shutdown deal that Senate lawmakers approved on Wednesday would provide back pay for federal workers who were furloughed during the operational slowdown, according to aides from multiple congressional offices.
The House on Oct. 5 unanimously passed a bipartisan bill to pay all federal employees retroactively for the government-shutdown period. President Obama supported the measure, but it hit a snag in the Senate after key Republicans signaled they would seek to amend it with other proposals that Democrats had already spurned.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who sponsored the House legislation, said on Wednesday that federal employees did not cause the shutdown and should not have to suffer for it. “They have bills to pay – mortgages, student loans, tuition, groceries,” he said. “It’s our obligation to make them whole again.”
The shutdown initially placed about 800,000 federal employees on furlough, but the Pentagon reduced that number last week by recalling hundreds of thousands of civilian defense personnel under a loose interpretation of a military-pay bill Obama signed earlier this month.
Union leaders on Wednesday called for swift passage of the Senate deal and voiced support for the back-pay provision.
“This is critical because federal employees have been out of work through no fault of their own and should not be made to suffer the loss of income and serious consequences that go with it,” said National Treasury Employees Union president Colleen M. Kelley. “The shutdown furloughs have created enormous financial hardships for a workforce committed to public service.”
National Active and Retired Federal Employees president Joseph A. Beaudoin expressed support for the Senate deal but issued a cautionary note about budget negotiations still to come. The Senate measure would only fund the government through Jan. 15, setting up another potential shutdown battle after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
In a statement on Wednesday, Beaudoin urged lawmakers to “find real answers to our nation’s problems and refrain from continuing to play political games using our public servants as pawns.”
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