On day five of the government shutdown, House lawmakers commended themselves for providing some peace of mind to furloughed federal employees while continuing to cast blame over who is responsible ongoing shutdown.
“Finally, a moment of decency,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., minutes before the vote on legislation to retroactively pay the roughly 800,000 furloughed federal workers. “Today’s bill at least redresses one wrong in this otherwise Orwellian exercise called the federal shutdown.”
Connolly and other Democrats continued criticizing GOP’s piecemeal approach to reopening government agencies — a path that has been rejected by the Senate and President Barack Obama — instead of simply voting on a “clean” continuing resolution to reopen the government.
The bill passed 407-0, with all of the lawmakers present for the Saturday morning session voting in favor.
“It’s encouraging to see both parties come together to provide fairness for the 800,000 federal workers hurt by this shutdown,” Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said in statement after the vote. “Now we should do something about the 800,000 jobs being destroyed by the president’s health care law. That’s why Republicans are working every day to reopen the government and provide fairness for all.”
“Surely, we the board of directors of the greatest enterprise on earth can take care of our employees and give them confidence that they deserve,” said Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., after throwing stones at GOP leaders for not bringing a clean continuing resolution to the floor.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., who introduced the bill Tuesday along with co-sponsor Rep. James P. Moran, D-Va., reminded lawmakers that the 12 people killed in September’s Navy Yard shooting were all federal employees.
“I saw the movie ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’” Wolf said. “The woman who did that movie, has she been furloughed? Should she not get paid?”
Many lawmakers referenced the Capitol Police officers on guard outside the building, and the traumatic events that brought the Capitol into lockdown on Thursday.
“This is about fairness,” Moran said.
A nearly identical proposal from Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., has bipartisan support, and the chamber is expected to consider some form of the back-pay legislation. The White House has indicated the president will sign it.
“I’m glad to see at the very least the Senate has plans to take up this bill,” said House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky. “Stop the presses, the Senate is going to take up a bill even if they won’t consider most of our other bills.”
Labor and employee groups have offered support for the bill.
“While Congress plays political games determining how to pay its bills, for middle-class families, a government shutdown means not knowing if or when they will be able to pay mortgages, utility bills and buy groceries,” said Joseph Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association in a statement.
“Federal employees are not the cause of our nation’s financial problems, yet they continue to be targeted by Congress,” he said. “With the passage of the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, these employees, who provide vital services to the American people, will have a little peace of mind.”