Though President Donald Trump signed off on back pay for furloughed federal workers after the last government shutdown, he called into question whether he would repeat the move after labeling federal employees currently going without pay as part of the opposition.
But according to The Daily Beast, the White House says it will support back pay for employees once the shutdown has ended.
It is tradition for the White House to support such a measure in the wake of a government shutdown. During similar incidents in the past, furloughed workers were compensated for the salary that they lost after Congress and the White House failed to reach agreement on funding the government. And before the current shutdown began, the Senate passed a measure ensuring that back pay be processed. The House will still need to pass such a measure and the president will have to sign it.
But in the latest standoff, which has been driven primarily by Donald Trump’s insistence on a border wall and Democratic lawmakers’ refusal to fund it to his liking, the president has labelled these workers as part of his opposition. Though Trump insisted that “many of those workers have said to me, communicated, ‘Stay out until you get the funding for the wall,’” he also claimed, citing no evidence, that most of the affected workers “are Democrats.” The administration also suggested that furloughed workers barter for rent and Trump recently signed an executive order freezing salaries for federal workers.
According to at least one recent poll, more than a quarter of federal employees are “not very confident that furloughed workers will receive back pay once” the government reopens.
At present, there is no law requiring furloughed federal employees receive back pay after a shutdown, but lawmakers in the Senate have introduced a bill to change that.
Government Executive reported on Friday that Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both of Maryland, introduced the 2019 Government Employee Fair Treatment Act, which would guarantee back pay for furloughed workers.
“We want to let federal workers know that they won’t be political pawns [in negotiations],” Cardin said in a call with reporters Friday. “It should be that as soon as appropriations are passed, your pay would be guaranteed, and the pay would be restored to federal workers, both furloughed and those working without pay. This also would protect pre-approved leave time that was approved prior to the shutdown, but is now in jeopardy.”
Van Hollen said the bill would also apply in the case of future shutdowns, which would remove some of the uncertainty that employees face during lapses in appropriations.