House passes bill to preserve pay for furloughed Transportation workers

The House passed legislation on Wednesday ensuring that the nearly 2,000 Transportation Department workers who were furloughed for two days in early March will not lose pay.

"These employees … were furloughed through no fault of their own," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who sponsored the legislation. "They became unwitting victims of an arcane practice in the upper chamber that allows one member's objection, no matter how specious, to grind to a halt the work of the American people."

The bill ensures that the workers who were furloughed will be paid at their normal salary rates for the hours they would have worked during the days they were directed not to report to the office. Under federal rules, those employees' benefits were not affected by the furloughs.

Connolly pointed out that there is a precedent for paying federal workers after furloughs. During the Clinton administration, two separate funding gaps resulted in 26 days of furloughs for 800,000 employees, who were compensated for the loss of work in a fiscal 1996 appropriations bill.

The House bill, co-sponsored by four other Democrats and Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., passed 418-1, with only Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, voting against it.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood ordered the furloughs after Sen. Jim Bunning blocked a temporary expansion of the Highway Trust Fund. The Senate then passed a 30-day extension of the fund, allowing the furloughed employees to return to work.

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