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House, Senate Send Bipartisan Bill to President Trump to Protect Government Workers Hurt by Shutdown

January 11, 2019 by TWN Staff
On the 20th day of a partial government shutdown, furloughed federal workers, contractors and union representatives gathered before marching to the White House to demand that President Trump reopen the government on Jan. 10, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

With 450,000 federal workers being forced to work without pay, and another 380,000 federal workers sent home over the holidays without pay, the ongoing shutdown is taking its toll on families and public servants. It is now the longest shutdown in U.S. history, surpassing the shutdown from late 1995 to early 1996, lasting 21 days.

The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act, which passed unanimously in the Senate and was approved across party lines in the House of Representatives, would guarantee that furloughed federal employees will be paid retroactively and stipulates that all employees will be paid as soon as possible after the lapse in appropriations ends. The bill now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law. McConnell indicated on the Senate floor that he had assurances from the White House that President Trump would sign the bill into law.

“I had an opportunity to talk to President Trump a few moments ago, and wanted to indicate to our colleagues that he will sign the bill that we’ve been discussing here to guarantee that government workers who’ve been displaced as a result of the shutdown will ultimately be compensated,” said McConnell.

The bill was sponsored by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeanne Shaheen, (D-N.H.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and three dozen senators.

Additionally, the bill clarifies that excepted employees who have scheduled previously approved leave occurring during an appropriations lapse may indeed take that leave without undue penalty. These provisions would also apply to employees of the District of Columbia (D.C.) Government, D.C. Courts, and D.C. Public Defenders Service, who are affected by federal government shutdowns.

“Federal workers are dedicated public servants who shouldn’t continue to suffer – working dangerous jobs without knowing when their next paycheck may come, or being forcibly furloughed and unable to carry out their mission – because of the government shutdown. Passage of our bill may not answer the question of when a paycheck will come, but it will guarantee that a paycheck will come when this shutdown finally ends,” said Senator Cardin. “We need to reopen the government immediately. Until we do, passage of our bill should be a sign of good faith and respect for federal workers, as well as a sign to creditors that our public servants will be made financially whole again. The House of Representatives should pass this legislation quickly and send it to the president, who has said he would sign it into law.”

“The partial government shutdown represents a failure to govern and harms not only those who need to interact with the closed agencies, but also hundreds of thousands of federal employees and their families who don’t know when they will receive their next paycheck,” said Senator Collins. “Civil servants bring dedication, competence, and experience to their work, and I appreciate all that they do for our government and our nation.  Our legislation would guarantee that they are paid retroactively as soon as appropriations are restored. I am also continuing to discuss with the White House and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle ways to bring an end to the shutdown as quickly as possible so that furloughed federal employees can return to work.”

“Today hundreds of thousands of federal employees are going to go without paychecks as our nation enters the third week of a government shutdown—that’s unacceptable,”said Senator Shaheen. “While the President continues to refuse to reopen the government, Congress must take action to ensure federal employees are rightfully paid. American workers are being unfairly held hostage by this shutdown, so it’s critical that Congress work to protect and deliver the pay our workers are owed. I hope the President will move swiftly and sign this bill into law. While passing this legislation is a necessary step, I continue to urge Republican leadership in the Senate to allow votes on House-passed, Republican legislation that will end this shutdown and reopen the government.”

“The President’s senseless shutdown is imposing unnecessary harm on people in New Hampshire and across the country, including our government workers who dedicate their careers to serving their fellow Americans,” said Senator Hassan. “This government shutdown is not their fault, and it is our duty to ensure that any government employee who is not being paid is made whole as soon as appropriations are restored. I urge the President to sign this commonsense, bipartisan bill into law as soon as possible and bring some peace of mind to the federal employees impacted by this shutdown – as well as any future ones.”

“For three weeks, I’ve heard from the federal workers that I represent who are worried about how they will make ends meet if this shutdown continues. These hardworking men and women have nothing to do with the political gamesmanship that led to the Trump Shutdown, but they’ve had to pay the price,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen. “Today, the Senate has passed our legislation on a bipartisan basis to provide our federal workforce with the much-needed certainty that they will receive their paycheck when the shutdown ends. But they shouldn’t be without a paycheck at all – they should be at work. Now, we must work together to end this crisis and reopen the government without delay.”

“On the eve of the first missed payday, the Senate has acted to make sure that federal employees get paid just as soon as the government reopens for business,” said Senator Warner. “I expect that the Democratic House will take up and pass this legislation in short order. Our federal workforce – Americans who dedicate their lives to serving this country – shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of this unnecessary shutdown. The President must allow the government to re-open for business immediately.”

“Yesterday I alerted both caucuses that I would object to Senators leaving for the weekend while 800,000 federal employees were on the cusp of losing out on pay Friday,” Senator Kaine said. “I am thankful that as a result we were able to engage in a discussion that will give those employees some measure of comfort that they will receive their paychecks when the shutdown is over. This is not the same thing as knowing when the shutdown will be over, or receiving their paychecks on time, but it is the right thing to do for us to show these hard working Americans we’re there for them.”

Additional cosponsors of the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act are: Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Angus King (I-Maine), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

A copy of the bill text can be found here.

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