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Yes, Mr. Chairman, Feds' Paychecks Could Get Delayed

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Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas J. Scott Applewhite/AP

At a House Rules Committee hearing Thursday, members of both parties thanked the Capitol Police for their role in ending a shooting threat at the Capitol Building just hours before.

That’s about where the agreement ended.

The committee’s ranking member, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., used the occasion to mention the fact that Capitol Police officers -- like all “excepted” federal employees required to work during the shutdown because they protect human life or property -- will not receive pay until the government reopens. Retroactive pay is guaranteed, but would be delayed if the shutdown continues past the date their next paychecks are scheduled to go out.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said he would be “embarrassed” if that were true, but maintained it was not. He called on an “expert witness” -- Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., another member of the Rules Committee -- who said because Capitol Police are essential, they would in fact be paid.

“The gentlewoman from New York is entitled to her opinion, but she is not entitled to create a fiction,” Foxx said.

Slaughter then interjected the employees would only be paid once the shutdown ends, to which Foxx had no response.

Sessions said, “we may not know all the rules that are in place.”

To clarify, here’s a quick summary of those rules:

  • Excepted workers: Guaranteed back pay once the shutdown ends.
  • Non-excepted workers: Not guaranteed back pay, but it’s looking like they’ll get it.

Hope that clears things up for any confused members of Congress. 

Eric Katz writes about federal agency operations and management. His deep coverage of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Postal Service has earned him frequent guest spots on national radio and television news programs. Eric joined Government Executive in the summer of 2012 and previously worked for The Financial Times. He is a graduate of The George Washington University.

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