House votes to give furloughed federal workers back pay
October 5th, 2013
11:31 AM ET
1 year 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. Pete

    The media is so stuck on this 800,00 unemployed workers number when it is actually much much more when taking contract employees into consideration. Us contract employees will likely not get pay and always get hurt when this nonsense happens. For god sakes, we just wanna go back to work so we can do the work for the lazy federal workers who are getting a paid vacation.

    October 5, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  2. Brandon

    Are you kidding me? So, let me get this straight, you dont have to go to work, but you get paid? And I am paying your salary? Are you kidding me? This must be a joke, right? How about when you come back to work, we will let you work on the weekends to make up the time, and then I will pay you. Guess I will be paying for a free vacation instead. I should work at club med cough cough, i mean the fed gov instead of actually creating GDP.

    October 5, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  3. Franklin

    I haven't read all the posts to know if the question has been asked, but can someone tell me if these furloughed workers are eligible for unemployment benefits? If they are eligible for unemployment, and they draw it, will they have to pay it back when they receive their back pay?

    October 5, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  4. Nancy

    OK, so the House just passed a bill that would send backpay to the furloughed workers. Isn't that paying you guys to stay home? Wouldn't that be Welfare? Will the guy at the coffee shop on the corner where you stop every day get any of that money? No? I didn't think so...

    October 5, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  5. Glenn Doty

    So we see that the GOP isn't interested in any way in budget control. They are quite happy to pay the federal workforce to stay at home and do nothing... they simply are opposed to government operating effectively.

    The goal is sabotage of the American government. There's no concern whatsoever about how much is spent.

    October 5, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  6. bill

    Can anyone care about what Nancy says? When they voted on THE ACA act/Obama care she said you have to vote for it to find out what it is are you kidding me.... And that is the truth......

    October 5, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  7. Aaron

    Most of you people are just jerks. The government works you're talking about are middle class at best and they actually do have important jobs. The ones that I know of have gone back to work and started back before the bill was officially passed because they knew it was going to pass. And yeah.. they should get paid for the few days they didn't work because this was not a scheduled furlough and not spending the money to pay them isn't the point of the shutdown. Many of these same people are already behind the eight ball from furloughs over the summer that will not be paid back. The contractors that couldn't work while these people were furloughed are just SOL. Congress cares more about their political footballs and their corp. contributors than regular people who have bills to pay. Eighteen states allow for recall of a congressman. Start that process and I bet we'd see them suddenly learn how to work and play well with others.

    October 5, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  8. donald

    i would love a paid vacation.

    October 5, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  9. Mad Dog Mike

    Ahh, the popping sound. That would be the sound of their collective heads popping out of that place where the sun does not shine ..

    October 5, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  10. DFW Dann

    So Republicans who hate the idea of a freebie on someone else's dime joined the evil Democrats who are only socialists in disguise to hand out money for lack of work. Sounds about right for all of the bull$*%t that been coming from Capital Hill for the last (insert your own time frame here.)

    For those who take everything too seriously, please re-read this in your own sarcastic tone.

    October 5, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  11. Mrusso

    For all of you who think federal employees are slackers, shame on you..... There are many of hardworking caring employees of the government that go out of the way to help the american people. Just because someone got a job in a government office, rather than work for private industry doesnt mean they are slackers. The slackers are the big wigs in DC – your congressmen and women who take the credit for being the government. I am a federal employee and proud of it. Every day for the past 25 years I get up and go to work to help farmers in America be able to stay in business. If it was not for the USDA, many of you would not have fresh food on your table, milk to drink, clothing on your backs and youhave that because we provide loans, and give them money to stay in business. Don't sit there and point fingers and make assumptions that federal employees are slackers. We did not ask for this, we want to do our jobs, we want to continue helping. Now as far as retro pay, Im for one am happy that I will still be able to keep a roof over my childs head, I am happy that I will be able to provide him with food. Yes, we get vacation time, but we earn it just like everyone else in the private industry. Do you forget that we also pay taxes? Do you not know that we cannot afford many office supplies beside paper and ink for the printers and the little things like pens, and memo pads are purchased by us individually? Do you not know that they have cut our budgets so far back that we are trying to achieve the same work that was done 15 years ago by 7 people down to 2? Before you start saying nasty things about these federal employees, do your research on who the slackers are. The slackers are the ones who are on welfare that sit home and suck up off of your taxes to get public assistance but yet they ride around in a fancy car using an iPhones and have gold hanging from their ears around their necks and all of the in style clothing, those are the slackers, they are the ones who are on disability that dont really need it. the federal workforce is made up of so many people, look at SSI, the VA, they help people – we are are hardworking people who chose to be public servants. DO YOU REALIZE FEDERAL EMPLOYEES HAVE NOT had a pay raise in over 3 years? That we pay our healthcare premiums that amount to 800 a month? We get nothing handed to us, we get abused by the general public as most of you have written here. We CHOSE to work for you, what have you done for us?

    October 5, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  12. Fedup

    Happy for my coworkers. But I'm essential, excepted, whatever, and have been showing up to a job that was understaffed and overwhelming even before they sent my coworkers home. I'm happy to do my job and relieved I didn't have to worry about whether or not I was getting paid, but if you are going to back pay these non essentials can you at least send them back to work?

    October 5, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  13. Gov worker

    It is either back pay the employees or 800,000 people applying for unemployment. People subject to lay-offs are eligible.

    October 5, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  14. California John

    The House is setting the stage for a fight on this. If the Senate approves then it will compel swift resolution of the shutdown, to drag it on will only make the House appear to condone pay for employees on involuntary vacation and if the Senate rejects the bill it broadcasts a reluctance to support bipartisanship and disrespect federal employees who have no skin in this game but who regardless will not be able to meet their obligations to pay creditors.

    October 5, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  15. aaron

    It's the same thing as the last shutdown. Government employees get an extra paid vacation. We work for a living and pay the taxes that supply the funds for the paid vacation. And, we keep electing these same idiots to Congress over and over. The ones that scream that government should be run like a business likely have some failed companies under their belts.

    October 5, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  16. Rickle

    The Senate should attach the clean budget to the "back-pay gov't workers that aren't working" bill and send it back to the House. The GOP House can't be allowed to buy 2016 gov't employee votes with taxpayers money like this.

    October 5, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  17. Christopher Scorzo

    BACK PAY! Look I'm all for paying a wage for work completed however if the USA is going to pay its employees for furlough then get them back working knowing they are going to be paid. Additionally employees should be paid interest on the money they should have received when it was due. However don't have employees sit at home and then turn around and pay them for it. I realize no person expects to work and not get paid when due however this is crazy...now the USA is furloughing workers only to turn around and pay them to sit at home against their will.

    October 5, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  18. kungpaop

    @TheresaInMd: You are absolutely ridiculuous, and I hope you're just joking. If you think that we, as federal employees, are like "being a card carrying member of the communist party at the height of the cold war", then I think you need to be locked up in an asylum. That is an ABOLUTELY Idiotic statement to make against hard-working individuals who do nothing but do their job better that you have ever done your. Plus, we are most veterans who have not only chosen to fight for your freedom to be an idiot, we have chosen to help those that have continued your right to be an idiiot. We are the farthest thing from communiststs in this country.

    October 5, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  19. Lee McBride

    First off, calling the government workers slackers and lazy bums is way out of line. They work for a living just like every other person on here complaining. They are not the one's in the congress or white house making these decision's. I would happily use my leave vice just getting back pay. As for a vacation, is it a vacation when you get furloughed from work? You cannot spend any money because you do not know if and when you're next pay check is coming, you still have bill's to pay. Were does a vacation come into this, vacation is where you get to enjoy time off by doing something you like, not sitting around waiting to see if congress is going to get their act together so you can go back to work. I was not expecting to get back pay for not working; but why are you going to beat up the government work for what congress has done? Please come walk in my shoes before you judge me.

    October 5, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  20. Excuseme?

    Let me get this straight. Gov shut down and now we have to pay the people? So, what is the purpose of the shut down? What a joke!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 5, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  21. Giovanna

    This is not fair I am one of those that has been going to work everyday while my co workers got furloughed they need to give them the option of off without pay or take it out of their vacation time, not they they get paid as if they were at work, not fair to the rest of us that did go to work.

    October 5, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  22. Jay

    How dumb are these people who shutdown the govt. They basically gave the federal workers a paid vacation.
    Sort of defeats the purpose, right.

    October 5, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  23. Gandalf

    Okay, federal worker here. Just want to shed a little light on some of the ignorance I am seeing here. First of all, all the work that has not been done for however long the shutdown lasts does not go away. The inventory I left behind on the last day I worked will still be there on top of all the work that did not get done while I was gone. Then on top of that will be the current work that comes in the day we return. I don't get to stay a week or two behind. I am expected to take care of everything that hasn't been done plus the regular day's work. If I don't get paid for the time off, then I am working for free. I doubt any of the complainers on this site are willing to work for free.

    October 5, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  24. VJ

    Harry Reid should amend to add CR and send back to house. If house votes, then Harry Reid should pass. Republicans are blackmailing Harry Reid and democrats. The most insane party is 'Republicans'.

    October 5, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  25. Winkingwino

    What about the government workers who weren't furloughed and have been working during the shutdown. I'm sure they'd like a free paid vacation like their furloughed counterparts. Congress should either pay federal employees working during the shutdown double pay or give them a free paid vacation too. Fair is fair.

    October 5, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
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