Rep. Robert Wittman, R-Va., joined other Virginia lawmakers to protect federal employees in the event of a shutdown.

Rep. Robert Wittman, R-Va., joined other Virginia lawmakers to protect federal employees in the event of a shutdown. AP file photo

Lawmakers Move to Protect Feds In Case of Shutdown

Virginia representatives prep legislation to ensure back pay for furloughed workers if government closes.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are trying to ensure that federal employees who are furloughed during a government shutdown receive back pay.

Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., and Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., are preparing legislation that would provide retroactive pay to all federal employees after the government reopens. “For the third time this year, congressional dysfunction threatens the livelihood of federal workers carrying out our country’s vital missions,” said Beyer. “It’s inexcusable to play politics with their pay and their family’s well-being.”

Congress is working on passing another short-term continuing resolution that would keep the government open through Dec. 16. The current CR expires at midnight tonight.

“There has to be consistency and certainty in government funding for our federal employees to effectively carry out the important work that they do every day to make the U.S. a better, safer place,” Wittman said. “This culture of stagnation that plagues the budget process in Washington and makes the well-being of federal employees contingent on unrelated policy measures has to end.”

Virginia lawmakers introduced the same bill in September before the start of fiscal 2016. Congress managed to avoid a shutdown, passing a continuing resolution that keeps the government open until the end of Friday.

“Our dedicated military, federal employees, and contractors are on the front lines every single day to keep us safe,” Comstock said. “We must all come together to keep the government open so that they do not have to worry where they will find their next paycheck.”

Congress has to pass legislation to approve back pay for federal employees furloughed during a government closure. In the 2013 shutdown, which lasted 16 days, back pay for furloughed feds was not guaranteed until lawmakers struck the final deal to fund agencies and reopen government. Although the government reopened on Oct. 17, they did not collect their wages until Oct. 25.

Federal agencies are not taking any chances and coordinating with the White House to prepare for an appropriations lapse. The Obama administration has been adamant that a shutdown should and likely will be avoided, but has said sensible planning requires agencies to take precautionary steps to prepare for a scenario in which Congress fails to act. 

Eric Katz contributed to this story.