Senate Still Hasn’t Voted on Bill That Gives Back Pay to Furloughed Workers

Susan Walsh/AP

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Several Republicans want to be able to attach amendments to a bill that would pay furloughed workers retroactively after the shutdown ends. By Kellie Lunney

The Senate hasn’t taken any action yet on legislation that would give back pay to federal employees furloughed during the government shutdown.

While the bill enjoys broad support in the upper chamber, several Republicans reportedly oppose the legislation’s swift passage through procedural shortcuts, such as a voice vote or unanimous consent agreement, and want the opportunity to offer amendments.

The House on Saturday unanimously passed a bill that would grant retroactive pay to employees forced to take unpaid leave during the government shutdown, now in its eighth day. President Obama has said he would sign the legislation into law if Congress approves it.

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters on Monday that it would be “premature” to consider a back pay bill for furloughed federal employees while the government still is partially closed. It’s also possible that granting retroactive pay to furloughed employees now, before the shutdown is resolved, eliminates a strong incentive for reopening the government quickly.

[Read Defense One’s complete coverage of the government shutdown here]

“The bill is a priority,” said Sue Walitsky, a spokeswoman for Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the bill’s sponsor in the upper chamber. “Sen. Cardin wants to get everyone back to work and he wants to make sure everyone gets paid.” Cornyn’s office and the office of Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., did not immediately respond to questions on the legislation.

At least one federal employee union believes Congress ultimately will approve back pay, but the timing is uncertain. “The good news is that Sen. Reid has said that he supports the bill, and there appear to be enough votes to pass it in the Senate,” said Matt Biggs, legislative and political director of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. “The president has also said that he will sign it, so I do think that it will eventually become law, but perhaps not as soon as we would hope.”

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