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. dbroad

    So its OK to pay employees to do nothing? What are taxpayers getting for this? Instead they should have voted to suspend their own pay and benefits for the duration. Then there might be a hope of something being accomplished.

    October 5, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  2. randall

    I don't agree paying an average salary of 18 dollars an hour for not working, sorry going somewhere other than your home and pretending to be working

    October 5, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  3. Jeff6187

    Yeah ... that's nice if you're a federal worker! It's GREAT! But it's a gesture. It's a PR move. It's a vote getter. Because if these clowns were really serious about remedying this situation, they'd REMEDY this situation ... they'd get over themselves and vote to fund the government. Because it's clear that behind this vote, they've forgotten all of the other thousands of people who AREN'T federal workers who are getting screwed over by their actions.

    October 5, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  4. juiceefruit

    I thought the purpose of the shutdown was to teach "BIG" government a lesson about how obamacare would cost too much money, money that taxpayers could not afford. Now people are getting paid for not workng.????PLEASE someone explain this to me, and speak slowly, I need the remedial version please. Oh yeah, where can I get one of those jobs???? Please sign me up, my parents taught me I had to work for a living, apparently they were wrong.

    October 5, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  5. GOP =Greed Over People

    While I am glad the 800K Federal employees will be paid, since the furlough was none of their doing, it shifts the pressure to the employees of private contractors who still cannot earn a living and the voting public because they cannot access needed Federal services.

    So, what is the House GOP TP terrorists THINKING???

    Oh, wait...uh, nevermind!

    October 5, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  6. Rose

    This whole shutdown was un necessary- funding to keep Govt open was passed by the House.
    They listened to the American people and defunded Obamacare so Democrats decided to hurt Americans
    and their families by shutting down Govt that was funded to be mean and nasty -They are public servants not Kings–not Dictators-public SERVANTS. All monies in this country belong to the American people even the federal
    money______
    Rose

    October 5, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    I am a federal worker on furlough. I do my job. I have bills like everyone else. I didn't ask for this lunacy.

    October 5, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  8. macc

    Wow,the GOP just gave the Federal workers a paid vacation!!!!!Way to save money or are you trying to buy yourself out of the mess the tea party faction has made.Now you look like you've wasted all OUR time and money for nothing!!!!!Just keep digging deeper because there is no way out,you've shown us how much you care about us and who you really care about.When I saw the first tea party rally,I said to everyone,they are going to ruin the GOP!!!!!!.

    October 5, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  9. Laura

    My husband is a federal employee and wants and needs to get back to work. He didn't want to get shut down. He has research and projects that included time sensitive and live samples that may have to be scrapped because of the shutdown putting his work backwards. They didn't choose to be put on "vacation" as so many of you refer to it, and even though he isn't in his office I can guarantee you that he is still trying to do what work he can because that is his work ethic and crucial to him getting his research done. That never stops. Let's not lump all federal employees together. My husband worked his butt off to get the job that he has and is working whether he is on the clock or not. People who just have jobs and not careers probably can't understand that.

    October 5, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  10. Ron -IN

    AMERICANS... both Republicans and Democrats when are YOU going to learn!! A government shutdown COSTS the COUNTRY MONEY!!! We now have all of the furlough employees getting back pay for the days this goes on. Under a different situation this is called a "paid vacation". We have poor people including women and children scrambling to find food and help. We can look back and see the last shutdown cost $1 billion dollars. This is absolutely un acceptable. Unfortunately the President MUST stand firm and not negotiate with the House Republicans. Not to prove how tough he is but to PREVENT this scenario from happening every two or three years because a small group in EITHER PARTY decides it is going to extort the rest of the country because they don't like a law that was recently passed!

    October 5, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  11. Elkhartman

    I say don't pay them...all this does is give them more paid vacation which they get mote than the average American worker gets

    October 5, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  12. thegohibniu

    @TheresaknMd its people like you that we need to bring back the The House Committee on Un-American Activities. Govt workers have been historically underpaid and underserved. We labored long under the prosperous years where our private sector "comerades" made 2-3 times more than us. Now that your Nazi friends have bankrupted unions, pension plans, homeownership, and investments, you claim that we are "overpaid". Please uninstall life.

    October 5, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  13. Evskie

    This is what happens when our supreme court allows oligarchs to run our country.

    October 5, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. mph

    FYI – don't generalize and assume ALL government employees are slackers. I work very hard supporting soldiers and abiding by the rules YOUR congress requires me to follow. And don't think we all automatically get a lot of vacation time. It takes awhile – usually 15 years – to get to the point where it makes a difference. Don't criticize me for taking this job to support my family. It's unfair. What do you do ? Didn't you make your choice?

    October 5, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  15. John

    For those of us that are in service contracts with the government, this is what American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) President J. David Cox said back on Oct. 1: “Please understand that all these service contracts will be paid, the contractors will be paid regardless of a government shutdown,” Cox said. “It’s a double standard that’s going on. Even if the services aren’t provided, the contracts must be paid.” I found that on thinkprogressdotorg.

    October 5, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  16. bph721

    So everyone should have a lousy job like all you sad sacks? Give me a break. Don't be mad at government employees because your life sucks.

    October 5, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  17. Punjabipete

    TheresainMD: How so? Federal workers are nothing like your Fox News says they are. I have many federal workers in my family, and I know for a fact that most federal workers do 2 and 3 jobs at once, must keep quiet in the face of idiots like you who spout off at the mouth with no information, and get paid less than in the private sector. The benefits are nowhere near as good as they used to be, and even if they were, have you ever paid your rent with your great health benefits? Have you ever told the light company that you have a great 401k program and had them annul your light bill? No? Then shut up and sit down.

    October 5, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  18. Bob

    Call your Congressman and demand that they pass a clean budget and raise the debt ceiling. The Tea Party is practicing extortion and holding this country hostage. Remember–Government workers didn't ask for a shutdown. They have bills to pay like everyone else. People took lower paying jobs in the Government sector for stability and security. With a pay freeze going on for four years and the targeting of their benefits, Government workers have been used as a punching bag by the Tea Party. The shutdown nonsense is harming this country and needs to end.

    October 5, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  19. familyoffederalemployee

    As the wife of a federal employee I can tell you the federal employees didn't want this. Being out of work with no idea of when you will get to go back or if you would get paid is stressful not a vacation. This didn't have to happen. The House has held these workers hostage in their argument. I am going this goes through and we will get back pay but this anger towards federal workers is being directed to the wrong people. They didn't want this either. As taxpayers we should be mad because the longer this goes on the more private companies will be effected and the federal workers will have to work overtime to catch up. So in the end the taxpayers and private companies will pay more for this. It's terrible and people should remember this at election time and write your representative.

    October 5, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  20. Dave

    Anon, only the politicians get 8+ weeks. Fed Employees get 6 hours for each of the 26 pay periods; that seems just short of 4 weeks.

    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 |

    October 5, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  21. ResearchGuy

    So, All of this whining about paying Federal workers for their furloughed time. I am a furloughed worker who has been a Federal employee for over 34 years I have worked more hours off the clock, for free, than this pay will account for, merely because work needed to be done and we did not have the budget to fund the additional payroll. There are a lot of Federal Employees that do the same job that I do, often working 16 hours per week or more for no pay at all. I do not see that happening in the private sector, where people work only to get paid rather than work to perform a public service.

    October 5, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  22. Jon

    My voters registration says "Republican" however; I have voted for other parties in the past. For the first time in my life (I am over 35), I will be changing my voters registration to something other than Republican. Between the Republican House shutting down the government and living in Florida where we have the worst Governor in history (Rick Scott), It's highly unlikely I will ever vote for a republican or republican initiatives ever again. You can also thank us for Marco Rubio (Sorry America, there are three things Florida hasn't ever and will never handle well: Elections, Education and traffic).

    Giving back pay is good for permanent Fed workers but what about the contractors? Also, it still doesn't solve the problem of the government being shutdown. It won't get passports processed this coming Monday, or do anything to help the economy that is quickly flowing down the world toilet because of the shutdown. The republicans need to make this right by restarting the government today, not next week. I don't care if they work all damn weekend 24/7, whatever it takes. They are paid well and need to do their job. If others of us don't do our job, we get fired and we need to hold the House to the same standard. It's bad enough that they don't share our pain in regards to retirement or medical. Make them work untill this is fixed.

    October 5, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  23. Thomas

    So basically all the federal workers that we are suppose to be feeling sorry for this past week are actually just getting a delayed paid vacation. Unless you are living paycheck to paycheck, not a bad deal for them. However it is a bad deal and causes a lot of hardships and problems for all the innocent non-government victims their not working causes.

    October 5, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  24. Brian Backus

    The party of "small government" is giving half of government an unearned, paid vacation. What a joke. So this "shut-down" will cost how much in lost productivity, but spent wages? The party is ideologically bankrupt.

    October 5, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. foreverflag

    To Dem. Senators: Force your leader Dirty Harry to put each amend before your body. Let's see where you are all at.
    If you can pay the gov. workers, then you can vote on the other amendments. I don't blame anyone for not trusting the Pres. to keep his word. Show the citizens where you stand. Man up.

    October 5, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
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