House votes to give furloughed federal workers back pay
October 5th, 2013
11:31 AM ET
10 months ago

House votes to give furloughed federal workers back pay

(CNN) – A bill that provides back pay for furloughed Federal workers during the government shutdown unanimously passed the House during a rare Saturday session on Capitol Hill.

Some 800,000 federal workers have been stuck at home without pay since October 1 when Congress failed to pass a budget for the new fiscal year.

On Friday, the White House said the president would sign the measure.

House Speaker John Boehner and GOP House leadership held the vote as part of a strategy to pass piecemeal spending legislation that addressed the issues brought up by the government shutdown.

Although Democrats oppose the incremental approach, saying it amounts to conservatives choosing to fund programs and services they like, the bill passed with strong bipartisan support.

Retroactive pay is guaranteed under the bill, but federal workers can't expect their paychecks until after the government shutdown ends and Congress reaches a resolution on the budget.

It’s unclear when the Senate might vote on the bill.

Shortly after the vote both parties in the House held press conferences, giving their separate takes on its significance.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor used the vote to highlight the fact that the government shutdown has left many American citizens in the lurch even if back pay for furloughed workers is secured.

“What about the vets? Do the Democrats not feel it's important to make sure the pain is eased on them? What about the sick children that need access to clinical trials? Is it not as important to ease the pain of the shutdown for them? Or is it just the federal employees that the Democratic minority thinks is important?” Cantor asked.

However, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi shifted the conversation away from the piecemeal funding to the broader issue of how to end the shutdown. Pelosi announced that 195 voting House Democrats have signed their names to a letter saying they will support a resolution in line with the $988 billion budget that has received support from some House Republicans.

The letter to Speaker Boehner demands “a vote on a clean continuing resolution immediately so that government functioning can resume and Americans can move on with their lives.”

The letter is consistent with the Democrats long-standing call for a "clean" spending resolution without any Obamacare provisions.

However, Pelosi called the Democrats latest maneuver an “unprecedented offer” because she promises that Democrats will not try to force any new conditions on House negotiations with the Senate.

If Boehner put the resolution to a vote, Democrats would need about two dozen more votes from Republicans in order to reach the two-thirds majority.

However, up until now, Boehner has been unwilling to bring the resolution to a vote, and its unlikely House Republicans would defy GOP leadership and side with the Democrats.

Shortly after the bill passed the House on Saturday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that most Defense Department civilian workers who were furloughed would be asked to return to work beginning next week.

Hagel said Pentagon and Justice Department attorneys have found that the law allows the Department of Defense to bring back employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.

The House also passed a resolution acknowledging the need for the Armed Forces to have access to religious services on military installations during the government shutdown.


Filed under: Government Shutdown • House
soundoff (445 Responses)
  1. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Just vote on the senate bill. Then all jobs and programs would be restored. Giving back pay for not working is the new republican dream, just like their stance on healthcare, not expecting uninsured to pay for coverage.

    October 5, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  2. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Another republican bandaid so they can march out in front of cameras. Fix the problem, you right wing nut jobs!

    October 5, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  3. Gyrogearloose

    Humph! If my employer shut down for a few weeks, I doubt I'd get paid. I'm sympathetic to the plight of government workers, but this reinforces how cushy government jobs appear to be.

    October 5, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  4. Anon

    Nice! So federal workers who already get up to 8 weeks of vacation are now getting even more. What company could ever afford to do such a thing?? Must be nice to have taxpayers on the hook for all this.

    October 5, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  5. erin

    What about all the hourly contractors who aren't working and so not getting paid?

    October 5, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  6. Planthead

    So if workers currently are furloughed and getting back pay, they technically are not furloughed. When you are truly furloughed, you don't get pay for this, it is just lost income.

    October 5, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  7. John

    So basically, this whole government "shutdown" is actually a paid vacation for 800,000 federal workers who already receive significantly more vacation days on average than the typical private-sector middle-class working American? It's nice to know that I get to go to work every day to fund other peoples' vacations.

    October 5, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  8. TheresaInMd

    Yay, the government employees are paid.. but what about contractors? Time to take a big dump on the thousands of contractors who are also out of work because of this political circus.

    October 5, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  9. Mike SMith

    Great, so its a paid vacation.

    October 5, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  10. bob

    then why dont they just go back to work ? free, paid vacation. makes no sense.

    October 5, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  11. Vladimir Freep

    Whoopie! Another paid vacation for government slackers! What else is new?

    October 5, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  12. Anonymous

    What about all the contract workers who are furloughed due to the shutdown?

    October 5, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  13. Bill from GA

    " House Speaker John Boehner and GOP House leadership held the vote as part of a strategy to pass piecemeal spending legislation that addressed the issues brought up by the government shutdown. "

    Translation: House Speaker John Boehner and GOP House leadership PICKING WINNERS AND LOOSERS.

    And they hate it so much when the Dems do that.

    October 5, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  14. Matt

    Just vote on the Clean CR senate bill and end this silly ring around the posy game already!

    October 5, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  15. will

    Why in the world are we paying people to sit home for a week. If they were non essential and sent home then there should be no pay. Only pay the ones that had to work. What a racket!! Nothing but a paid vacation.

    October 5, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  16. a dude

    so now even more waste – the government employees sit at home and get paid for doing nothing!

    October 5, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  17. Byron

    The GOP created a nice long paid vacation for 800,000 highly paid federal workers, all paid for by the tax payers.

    October 5, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  18. Diana

    Agreed – republicans just pass the bill. In the private sector I have been furloughed several times in my lifetime and NEVER was I given back pay and each time I HAD to work even when I wasn't getting paid. I am not saying to not give federal workers back pay when they get back to work, I am just saying that their demise is not unique. I want the Democrats to stand their ground.. I don't want them to compromise and I do not want them to accept piece meal legislation.

    October 5, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  19. veryoldman

    I am glad to see innocents get a pay check they deserve. I cannot understand is how could Republicans vote to pay their hated federal workers for staying home? It's a game for Republicans.

    October 5, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  20. Terry

    So, if Federal employees are being paid / going to be paid, why are they not going back to work NOW!!!!! They would not be "volunteering," so would not run into any legal prohibition. SO SEND THEM ALL BACK TO WORK!

    October 5, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  21. AimeeJo

    What about all the contract workers who were furloughed due to the shutdown, will they be receiving back pay?

    October 5, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  22. Bill from GA

    So we're going to spend the money to pay these workers, we're just going to get nothing for it, since they are FURLOUGHED.

    How does that make you RIGHTIES feel??

    October 5, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  23. Mike

    So they are getting paid to stay at home? Great. What a wonderful moment. Why don't you open the gov't and let them get paid for what they are supposed to do.

    What about everyone else who is suffering because of this political posturing?

    October 5, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  24. noteasilyswayed

    And the gimmick of the day is this back pay bill..... but those out of work are still going to be in a cash flow problem, so this does not really solve the problem, just patches over it. Boehner needs to bring a clean CR up for a straight up/down vote and stop all of this BS.

    October 5, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  25. Marty Rogers

    "Giving back pay for not working is the new republican dream, just like their stance on healthcare, not expecting uninsured to pay for coverage." federal workers did not ask for no work. Most are furious and worried and this especially after salary freezes, loss of benefits and the sequester. this is the least congress can do to get their minds at ease. About haff worked this past week without pay and many more worked quietly from home. However, this shutdown needs to stop and services need to be restored because they cannot provide any service directly to the public. it is absurd.

    October 5, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
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