House votes to give furloughed federal workers back pay
October 5th, 2013
11:31 AM ET
12 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. Kiska K

    As the wife of a furloughed government worker, I cannot believe the hatred and just plain stupidity here.
    My husband DID NOT ASK to be furloughed. We were never expecting the government to get shut down.
    Why should my husband lose wages because clowns in Congress are playing games?
    This is NOT a paid vacation for us. It is a time of great uncertainty and worry. My husband does not "get" to stay home. He has been ORDERED home.
    Now I know why the country is so messed up – too many ignorant idiots like you at the voting booths.

    October 5, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  2. steven C Jessee

    there is a way to stop all this BS and that is to stop all government pay until an agrement is reached.( And i mean all .

    October 5, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  3. Bman

    This is ridiculous. You're shutting down the government, but then you'r going to pay all the employees as if they were on the Jobs working..Why not just keep the government open? I think Obama should veto it.

    October 5, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  4. Bruno Cruz

    That's a disgusting comment, TheresaInMd. This past week has been stressful for government employees. We're sitting here every day waiting for the phone to ring to see if we can come back to our jobs. We have bills to pay, too. We did not ask for any of this this and I want it to end. Hopefully this move will create pressure to bring an end to this nonsense.

    October 5, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  5. KPDVM

    Wish I had a guaranteed job with guaranteed pay no matter what. What a joke this self serving, above all laws, excuse for humans that make up our so called government.

    October 5, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. Bruno Cruz

    Tom Perry: "When a employee gets laid off due to a slow down and then is rehired, do they get back pay? NO." BUT THEY GET UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE IN THE MEANTIME, PLUS A SEVERANCE PACKAGE.

    October 5, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  7. TC

    Reid has lost, he just hasn't figured it out yet. Dead man walking....

    October 5, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  8. Chelle Weseman

    Let me get this straight. Workers who are sitting at home will get retroactive pay for not working. But my husband, who is a federal law enforcement officer, HAS to work for no pay. He can't take sick days, personal days or vacation days during the shutdown. If this is the case why can't all federal employees work for no pay until the shutdown is over? My husband served his country as a Marine and continues to protect our country and is being shafted!

    October 5, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  9. Ken

    Impeach all of politicians and start over...
    Down size the federal government by 800,000 workers that we don't really need..

    October 5, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  10. NorsemanIowa

    Gee, than if they are getting paid, than they need to be on the job starting Monday. Than this is not a government shut down. What about all the others that are affect by the shutdown that are not government workers, what are they to do?????

    October 5, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  11. Julia

    If politicians are supposed to represent the people then its failing, because this vote does not represent me.

    October 5, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  12. Bruno Cruz

    dnokc: "So there IS room to negotiate! Another of Mr. Obama & Mr. Reid's RED LINES fall!"

    Do Repblicans REALLY want to negotiate? They putting demands on passing a budget, but so far Democrats aren't. So let's negotiate. Republicans want to delay and defund Obamacare. The Democrats should say, fine, we'll do that as long as you agree to end the tax credits for the oil industry, penalize companies that ship jobs overseas, and reduce our military presence that's currently in every corner of the world.

    October 5, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  13. zepper

    How misinformed people are about federal government employees!!! Yes, I am a government employee. I did NOT choose to stay home. I also have a family to support and bills to pay just like all other Americans! The Republicans have decided to make this whole government shutdown over Obamacare. They have done this because their RICH business owner supporters and donors do not want to have to pay for health insurance coverage for all of their employees. I am ready to get back to work as soon as possible. Federal employees DO NOT get 8 weeks of vacation. The max is 5 weeks after 15 years of service. We DO NOT get full health care coverage. We have to pay at least 1/3 of the premium. Retirement benefits under FERS sucks. I will be lucky to get 30% of my salary in retirement pay after 30 years of service! Federal employees have not had a salary increase in four years. Cushy job....I know myself and my coworkers work their butts off, for not a lot of pay. It is a proven fact that federal employees, on average, make less than their private sector counterpart. However, I stay because I really enjoy my work and I enjoy giving back to my country and trying to make the USA the best country in the world! The recent actions of congress are real disappointing and show the lack of respect they have for hard working federal employees! We are always the ones caught in the middle when there are budget disagreements.

    October 5, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  14. MilitaryAF

    I can appreciate the fact that our civil-servants need their paycheck. I can also appreciate the fact that the shut-down wasn't of their doing. BUT, those that were furloughed should ONLY BE PAID AN AMOUNT EQUAL TO UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR THEIR STATE, NOT THEIR FULL PAYCHECK. This would be a FAIR resolution, as they would legitimately qualify for UI had they been laid-off, and it would provide enough $$$ for food, rent, etc. for the short-term.

    October 5, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  15. Solitairedog

    So basically, now the Teaparty has decided it's better for the taxpayer to pay for services but not receive them. Honestly, who let these overgrown midget brains out of the nursery?

    October 5, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  16. the hippies were right

    I hope all these negative comments are aimed towards Boehner and the house for instigating this game and not at all the people furloughed who have no say in any of it! The house is playing games! Put yourself in the shoes of the innocent for once in your life!

    October 5, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  17. Saywhat!

    This is ridiculous! First shut it down, then oops we have to open and fund a,b,c,d and x..Oh and we have to pay those poor workers that have to stay home! AS IF!... What is going on???? What kind of amateurs do we have running the government, the crazies are running the asylum. I say again this is just ridiculous!

    October 5, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  18. coolthinker

    So, the congress now bestows on itself the power to waste tax dollars - and pay workers without doing any work whatsoever !!! What great thinkers we have in this congress !! They rant and rant about mounting debt and here you go - pass a bill that will waste millions of $$. Hypocrites and thieves all of them !!!

    October 5, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  19. John Doe

    This is just plain wrong. They didn't work. The should either take their vacation time or not get paid, just like happens to us in the private sector.

    October 5, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  20. John

    If they are going to get retroactive pay, send them back to work and do not give them a free vacation!

    October 5, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  21. John Kennedy

    Back Pay – Really?
    I have nothing but sympathy for someone who is laid off from their job. Over the last 37 years I have had the displeasure of being laid off at least 10 times. My employer fell upon times when he couldn't sell his product and make a profit so he had to cut costs. So now the federal government has decided that it can't continue to pay all of its employees for one reason or another. It really doesn't make any difference why. Here is the kicker. Their employer, Congress, has decided that when they go back to work they will receive back pay for the time they were laid off. In my opinion, that's not being laid off. That is a paid vacation. The only people that are going to lose anything at all out of the entire government shut down are the taxpayers. Have any of you people out there that have been laid off from your job received back pay when you were re-called to work? I doubt if you have or ever will.

    October 5, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  22. Ignominious

    What I see in this is that there are 800,000 non-essential federal government employees. That's 16000 for each of the 50 states. That's ridiculous!!

    October 5, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  23. Poor Richard

    So the republicans shut down the workplace and then pay people for not working. Can someone tell me how that is good business? Why even shut the place down if you are going pay people anyway

    October 5, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  24. Richard

    It's good that federal workers will be paid for the time that they were involuntarily furloughed. It's only far. It is also true, thanks to the Republicans, that the American public has paid for almost a million work weeks - so far - for which they get absolutely nothiong in return. (Good thing that we are floating in money!) Let's all try to remember this on Election Days from now until eternity:

    R = Rip-off; R = Republican; R = Revenge at the polls!!!

    October 5, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  25. Data Driven

    @TheresainMd,

    "Being a government employee is like being a card carrying member of the communist party at the height of the cold war."

    Prove?

    October 5, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
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