House votes to give furloughed federal workers back pay
October 5th, 2013
11:31 AM ET
6 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. mike erice

    obamascare 101 when health insurance rates double in the next 5 yrs then all these democrats need a boot up there tailbone ibm and walgreens are 2 major companies redoing health insurance plans they know that people with existing sickness currently uninsureable and adding the poor and indigent will drive cost higher with middle class paying for it

    October 5, 2013 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  2. Maxine

    Everybody talks about the Federal Workers but what about the Government Contractors? We pay taxes and serve this country too! There is no back pay for us – nothing not even a nod in the press. If there are 800,000 Federal Workers then there are 800,000 plus Federal Government Contractors. We do all the work and should be paid too. This is a very stressful time for everybody but more so for the Contractors because we are overlooked at every angle.

    October 5, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  3. MV

    I'm a government worker who has not been furloughed because our organization still has funding to pay us through next week. I don't think its fair that the individuals who have been off the last week would be able to get paid. They should be forced to use thier leave if they want to get paid.

    October 5, 2013 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  4. Arla n Chuck

    Only Congress can be that dumb! We're in debt and we are giving federal workers time off with pay! Stupid! I figured something like this would happen! They need to go back to work if they are getting paid. Congress should not get paid, they can not do their job anyway!

    October 5, 2013 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  5. princesstalia

    Are you guys on here kidding me?! These workers may be getting backpay now, but that certainly doesn't help them with the daily expenses they have! Groceries, bills, gas... these things are expenses that demand to be paid off AT THE MOMENT- may I remind you that these workers have no money AT THE MOMENT? Getting paid sometime in the future (especially without an end to this fiasco in sight) isn't going to help these people any, and now it seems these furloughed workers are being forced to report back to work even without pay. Maybe if they didn't have to report back to their previous work they'd be able to get a temporary job that would pay their at-the-moment bills, but now they can't even do that. Yes, their work is essential to the public, but are the jobs they would be doing so important that the Pentagon feels the need to put these worker's lives in jeopardy? Apparently so!

    October 5, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  6. Winston Smith

    What the hell was the point of this weeks exercise in stupidity for then? We have got to be the laughing stock of the world.

    October 5, 2013 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  7. Biggest Welfare

    When Members of Congress cannot do their job, their solution is to waste tax payers' blood and sweat and handout giant welfare packages to 800,000 people. It is amazing that both sides agree this is the smartest solution. We need to get rid of these Imbeciles!
    Those military personnel and government workers who have to put their lives on the line and work and earn their paychecks should file claims with EEOC and sue the Congress for unfair treatment. Their "non-essential" co-workers don't have to work to get paid.

    October 5, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  8. Larry

    it's the 1 -2 punch of the solution
    1 is vote to approve back pay
    2 since we are paying them, vote to get back to work because nothing better describes a congressional plan than money for nothing. And it's time they change but that's our task to change congress

    good luck 'merica !!

    October 5, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  9. Fed up Federal employee

    If the president signs the back pay bill it will be the most stupid thing yet. No wonder were broke and needing to raise the debt ceiling , we have a bunch of elected idiots. This would make absolutely no fiscal sense at all. Just open the government back up. Slow down on all the money being spent, pay people for work completed, delay the stupid health care law until they can get it all figured out and stay calm and carry on.

    October 5, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  10. familyoffederalemployee

    Most federal workers would gladly go back to work or use vacation time to get paid right now. They aren't allowed to do either right now due to the actions of our elected officials.

    October 5, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  11. Rick J

    Back pay for what? Not working? Sorry, but no...

    October 5, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  12. GonzoinHouston

    Nope again! The pubbers, under threat of primary attack by the Tea Party, demanded concessions on the ACA as a condition for keeping the government open. All these partial-funding bills are just damage control against the public backlash. No way, kiddies! You made this mess and you will bear the consequences. We'll all remember this at the polls next year.

    October 5, 2013 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  13. Bob

    Ah Yes, Republicans are so fiscally minded, they decided to keep hundreds of thousands of federal workers from going to work and to pay them for not working

    October 5, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  14. Name

    All of those workers should be required to use their paid vacation. Now they are getting extra vacation at the taxpayers expense. Really how does this save us money as our government continues to sink us in debt. Those top politicians who make six figures should get their pay taken away from them. They are the reason why we are where we are.

    October 5, 2013 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  15. Taxpayer

    Though we appreciate that Congress want to pay federal employees during this furlough period due to no fault from the federal employees. Federal employees want to get back to work. We want to protect our country and our democracy. We do not want to be viewed just like the congressmen and congresswomen who are not doing their job and still get paid for. Please get the job done. If the Speaker cannot count the vote, please ask the reporters to count the vote so that the public know who is for and against the budget, and who are still undecided because they can't make decisions. Thank you.

    October 5, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  16. GonzoinHouston

    Wait a minute! The GOP just voted to pay people to stay home and not work. Seriously? The guys who rave about wasteful federal spending and useless federal workers, the guys who howl about the debt and deficit, are now willing to pay federal workers to stay home and get paid. When they finally return to work, they will no doubt earn a bucketful of overtime trying to clear the backlog of work that stacked up. Government spending at its finest, brought to you by the party of fiscal restraint and frugality. Yeesh!

    October 5, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  17. JT

    The President said that the shutdown is not the government employees' fault and advocates for backpay. What about the contractors? Do they get backpay also? I'm sure the shutdown wasn't the contractors' fault either. Why should government employees get backpay and not contractors?

    As a matter of fiscal policy, the new appropriation is needed to pay government employees for October; however, for the most part the contractor's funding is FY 13 money so new appropriation is not needed to pay those contracts. But you are not advocating for backpay on already funded contracts. Why not?

    There are thousands of contractors affected but I don't see any of you addressing that issue. They are people with families as well and within your responsibility as Congressmen.

    If you are going to advocate backpay for work not performed then be fair accross the board!

    October 5, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  18. bsm845

    None of the goverment employees wanted to be furloughed. As a matter of fact I believe the majority would have elected to remain on the job. Being used as pawns so politicians can promote their agendas is not something goverment workers have any control over. As far as a paid vacation goes? The work does not go away I am sure it will still be there when we get back...

    October 5, 2013 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  19. Michael

    Funny how the most ignorant, uninformed comments sail right through without moderation, but any comments pointing out such misinformation is censored by interminable "awaiting moderation" where they linger forever in limbo.

    October 5, 2013 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  20. Uthor

    OK, so the GOP basically decided to give all the "non-essential" workers a paid vacation. Yet they say they have issues with spending? Huh?

    October 5, 2013 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  21. Slifer

    I know this may seem mean but when the government shutdown ends I believe that the workers that where furloughed should not get back paid for time they where not working. However if government workers where given the option to continue to work with the possibility of getting back paid even though they where not guaranteed to get back paid then they should get back paid once it has been decided they will get back paid.

    October 5, 2013 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  22. lewtwo

    Pay them for not working .... brilliant strategy GOP.

    October 5, 2013 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  23. Alex

    When they get their back-pay, do they have to give any back-work?

    October 6, 2013 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  24. Facts please

    I appreciate all the opinions, however many comments are made without knowledge of how things work. Regarding back pay and furloughs...there are two types of furloughs defined by the OPM. 1) Administrative Furlough- planned by an agency, designed to absorb reductions because of lower than expected funding. 2) Shutdown Furlough- unplanned and without notice. Due to a lapse in appropriations.
    We are under option # 2. There is no language stating that an employee would not be paid. Option 1 requires 30 day notice AND is without pay.
    It seems that our short memory society forgets that government employees (not all) are working under the sequestration. That means that many have already experienced type 1 furloughs and have been paid less than expected already this year. Type one furloughs will likely continue as sequestration gets more severe each years. The only other option at some point is a reduction in force (RIF). There are some people that will say government is too big to begin with, but truthfully, there are agencies that are working below minimal support and staffing. Privitization is not the answer, especially for agencies that provide oversight, unbiased science, monitoring, and etc. many furloughed workers would prefer to be at work because, we will be expected to do as much despite losing one, two, three weeks of time at work. Many of us use instrumentation that cannot be "off" for weeks at a time. This is a waste. It is not a vacation...that requires planning and associated fun/rest time.
    Anyone to suggest that the average government employee voted for tea party folks is insane. We all know, they want no government, which to me seems counterintuitive to them being a government employee themselves.
    There are so many levels to all this, it pains me to hear one liners that someone heard on Fox News...or is it fiction.

    October 6, 2013 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  25. ucinc

    Glad teh Federal employees are getting backpay.. What about all the support contract employees that support the government contracts?? Most of them were asked to stay home and take annual leave and stay on call if needed.. Can the contract employees get back their annual leave that they did not have to use?

    October 6, 2013 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
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