Democratic Lawmakers Support Retroactive Pay for Shutdown Furloughs

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., says federal employees "should not have to suffer" if Congress can't reach a deal to keep government open. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., says federal employees "should not have to suffer" if Congress can't reach a deal to keep government open. Cliff Owen/AP

This story has been updated. 

Two Democratic lawmakers with oversight over the federal workforce have called on Congress not to victimize civil servants in the event of a government shutdown.

While the Senate moved forward with a stopgap spending measure Friday afternoon that would keep the government open until Nov. 15, the continuing resolution’s fate was less clear in the House. Congress has until Monday evening to pass a bill to keep government open.

With the clock ticking down for Congress to act, the probability that agencies will shutter their doors come Tuesday morning -- forcing hundreds of thousands of civilian employees to stay home without pay -- continues to grow. Excepted feds required to work during a shutdown are guaranteed retroactive pay once regular appropriations or a continuing resolution is passed. For furloughed employees, however, Congress must decide whether to issue the back pay.  

While passing a spending bill remains lawmakers’ top priority, some want to ensure federal employees are protected if the government shuts down.

“Shutting down the government is never a good option and I sincerely hope it can be avoided,” Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told Government Executive. “But in the unfortunate event of a shutdown, Congress shouldn’t add insult to injury by denying federal employees their back pay for a period when the government finances are on hold. Far too often, federal workers have become a political target, and the men and women of the federal workforce shouldn’t have to forfeit their salary just because Congress can’t do its job and come to an agreement to fund the government in a timely manner.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said federal workers should not be a tool for Republican gamesmanship.

“Federal employees should not have to suffer -- through no fault of their own -- just because Republicans insist on shutting down the government,” Cummings said. “These hardworking employees have endured relentless attacks on their pay and benefits over the past several years, and they should not be penalized again now if extremists place their own ideology over our nation’s best interests.”

Historically, furloughed federal employees have been paid retroactively after a government shutdown. The current political climate drastically differs from the last shutdown in the mid-1990s, however, and back pay is far from a guarantee. Even the Obama administration would not commit to supporting retroactive pay for furloughed employees, according to union officials.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the second highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, took the Senate floor Thursday to plead the case of federal employees.

Republicans are “playing high-stakes poker with other people’s money,” Durbin said. “The victims of this political crisis will not be the senators and House members. It will be a lot of innocent people, a lot of workers across America, who only want to get up and do their work for the government to make this the greatest nation on Earth.” 

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said for now the focus is on avoiding a shutdown altogether, but as soon as the first employee gets furloughed, the union will begin pressuring Congress to issue back pay. She added that newer employees who were not around for the last shutdown may have “heard the folklore” of retroactive pay, and NTEU is working to make sure employees realize it is “not a done deal.” 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.