Federal workers would be paid retroactively under House bill

A House bill would guarantee that all federal employees receive retroactive pay for the duration of the government shutdown.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, is one of more than 50 co-sponsors of the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, which was introduced late Monday by Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., to pay both employees who were furloughed and those required to work. Rep. Frank Wolf, also of Virginia, is the lead Republican co-sponsor.

Most federal civilian employees were furloughed Tuesday after Congress failed to reach an agreement on a spending bill to fund the government. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution to extend the current spending rates for six weeks but also to delay the Affordable Care Act, which Senate leaders said they would not agree to.

The emergency furloughs affect about 750 of the 1,300 Defense Department civilians who work at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton and 540 technicians who work for the Connecticut National Guard, which combined is 1 percent of the workforce in southeastern Connecticut.

Federal employee pay is suspended in the event of a funding lapse or government shutdown. Retroactive payment for non-essential and essential employees must be approved by Congress. Retroactive pay was approved for federal employees after the last government shutdown in late 1995.

“These workers and their families, many of whom were already impacted by sequestration furloughs over the summer, should not have to suffer because irresponsible House Republicans are on a crusade against the Affordable Care Act,” Courtney said in a statement. “This bill would restore lost pay to talented workers who have been used as a political football for far too long.”

Members of the military and some Defense Department civilians continue to receive paychecks because the Pay Our Military Act passed the House and Senate without opposition and President Obama signed it into law late Monday.

The Pentagon and White House are evaluating whether the law’s provision to pay those who are providing support to members of the Armed Forces could be broadly interpreted to bring furloughed civilians back to work.

In a letter sent to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Rand Beers, Courtney argued for the broadest possible implementation of the Pay Our Military Act.

“While I am hopeful for a quick resolution, it is possible that a shutdown could continue for at least a few days, if not longer,” Courtney wrote. “In that event, I urge that you use all authority available to you to enact the broadest interpretation possible when implementing any furloughs under the government shutdown, with the goal of keeping as many of our hard working civilians in the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security at work in support of our military and our nation’s security.”

Courtney again called on House Speaker John Boehner to allow for a vote on a “clean” continuing resolution, which would not seek to change the Affordable Care Act.

j.mcdermott@theday.com

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