Congress Expected to Grant Back Pay to Furloughed Feds

Susan Walsh/AP

This story has been updated. 

The House will vote Saturday on a widely supported bill to grant furloughed federal employees retroactive pay upon the reopening of government, Republican leaders have announced.

The bill is expected to pass with bipartisan support, with Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., backing the measure Friday. The legislation -- which was introduced by Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Frank Wolf, R-Va. -- has garnered more than 150 co-sponsors, including 18 Republicans. It cleared the House Rules Committee Thursday night, and will require a two-thirds majority in the House before it moves on to the Senate.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., introduced identical legislation in the upper chamber. A spokeswoman for Cardin said the schedule is “only a matter of which [chamber] can move first,” adding she expects Senate Democrats to approve the measure once they receive it.

The Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act would reimburse federal employees forced to take unpaid leave due to the government shutdown for time missed, “as soon as practicable.”

President Obama announced his support for the bill Friday.

“Federal workers keep the nation safe and secure and provide vital services that support the economic security of American families,” the White House said in a statement. “The administration appreciates that the Congress is acting promptly to move this bipartisan legislation and looks forward to the bill's swift passage.”

The White House added the bill would not reduce the need to reopen government: “This bill alone, however, will not address the serious consequences of the funding lapse, nor will a piecemeal approach to appropriations bills.”

Excepted federal employees required to work during the shutdown are guaranteed back pay by statute. The remaining 900,000 federal employees who are currently furloughed, however, need congressional action to receive pay for the duration of the shutdown. In previous government shutdowns, Congress has always approved retroactive pay for the federal workforce, and employee groups and unions have repeatedly called on Congress to again ensure compensation. But prospects for back pay were less certain this time around, given the fiscal climate.

At the Rules Committee Thursday, Moran testified federal employees were victims of the shutdown.

“These folks did not bring this about,” Moran said. “They’re trying to do their jobs, they want to do their jobs. They want to come into work every day and they have bills to meet.”

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