House bill ensures backpay for furloughed feds

Tuesday - 10/1/2013, 12:51pm EDT

This story has been updated to include information on a scheduled vote.

A bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers is pushing for a bill to make sure federal employees furloughed during the first government shutdown in 17 years receive backpay once agencies reopen.

Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) introduced the "Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act" late Monday. The bill would guarantee that both those employees required to work through the shutdown and those placed on unpaid leave receive backpay.

House Republicans have scheduled a vote on the legislation, which could come Friday or Saturday.

"Nearly a million federal workers could lose their pay because Congress failed to do its job and keep the government up and running," Moran said in a statement. "Leaving the question of retroactive pay for furloughed employees, already shouldering much of the burden of sequestration, up to this highly divisive Congress is deeply concerning. Today's bipartisan proposal shields family pocketbooks from partisan politics and reaffirms our commitment to our federal employees."

All told, between 800,000 and 1 million federal employees are expected to be furloughed during the shutdown, including half of the Defense Department's civilian workforce — about 400,000 employees.

"Employees at the FBI, DEA and U.S. Marshals Service shouldn't be punished because the Congress couldn't get its job done," Wolf said in a statement. "They should be properly compensated for the hard work they do to make our nation a safer and better place. Let's also not forget that several federal workers paid the ultimate price just last week in the Navy Yard tragedy."

Unions echo call for backpay

Federal employees deemed "essential" who continue to work through the shutdown are expected to receive pay once Congress restores government funding. But furloughed federal employees face a more uncertain future when it comes to their pay.

During the last government shutdown, between the end of 1995 and early 1996, Congress eventually approved backpay for all federal workers.

"Our bipartisan bill will ensure that this Congress, just like the Republican-led Congresses before, honors its commitment to the dedicated men and women of our civil service who serve our constituents," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), one of the co-sponsors of the bill.

Federal-employee unions have said ensuring furloughed workers get paid is a top priority.

"We believe that they should be paid, that it is just totally inappropriate and unfair to put them in any position," Colleen Kelly, president of the National Treasury Employees Unions, said last week. "And,so, we're going to do everything we can to make it happen."

Other sponsors of the proposal include House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Scott Rigell (R-Va.) and John Delaney (D-Md.).

Just hours before the shutdown began early this morning, the Senate approved, and the President signed, a bill to ensure military members are paid on time during the shutdown. The House approved the measure over the weekend. DoD said last week military members' pay could be delayed during a shutdown.

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