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Government doors closed, but workers may get paid

By Andrew Taylor

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 09:43 a.m. HST, Oct 05, 2013

WASHINGTON » Their government has failed to keep the doors open and has told federal workers to stay off the job as the political parties fight over spending and health care in austere times.

Now Congress and President Barack Obama are sending this message to the 800,000 sidelined government employees: We don't know when the impasses will end but you will get reimbursed for lost pay once the government reopens.

With the partial shutdown entering its fifth day, the GOP-run House passed a bill today that would make sure the furloughed workers get paid for not working. The White House backs the bill and the Senate was expected to OK it, too, but the timing was unclear.

The 407-0 vote in the House was uniquely bipartisan, even as lawmakers continued their partisan rhetoric.

"This is not their fault and they should not suffer as a result," Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said of federal workers. "This bill is the least we should do. Our hard-working public servants should not become collateral damage in the political games and ideological wars that Republicans are waging."

Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, said federal workers shouldn't have to worry about paying their bills while Congress and the White House fight over funding the government.

"They have child care expenses, house payments to make, kids that are in college, and while the president refuses to negotiate, while he's playing politics, they shouldn't worry about whether or not they can make ends meet," Turner said.

But even as Congress and the White House rallied around the bill, one outside group said it "demonstrates the stupidity of the shutdown."

Making the shutdown less painful for 800,000 federal employees will encourage Congress and the White House to extend it even longer, driving up the cost, said Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Ellis said "essential" federal workers who stayed on the job "will feel like suckers because they've been working while the others essentially are getting paid vacations."

The White House has opposed other piecemeal efforts by House Republicans to restore money to some functions of government during the partial shutdown. White House officials have said the House should reopen the entire government and not pick agencies and programs over others.

In the 1995-96 government shutdowns, furloughed workers were retroactively given full pay.

Also today, the Pentagon said it was ordering most of its approximately 400,000 furloughed civilian employees back to work.

The decision by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is based on a Pentagon legal interpretation of a law called the Pay Our Military Act, which Congress passed and Obama signed shortly before the shutdown began.

The Pentagon did not immediately say exactly how many workers will return to work. The Defense Department said "most" were being brought back.

The law ensured that members of the military, who have remained at work throughout the shutdown, would be paid on time. It also left room for the Pentagon to keep on the job those civilians who provide support to the military.

Despite the White House's declared appreciation of the essential the role of federal workers, there appeared no sign of a breakthrough in getting them back to work.

Lawmakers keep replaying the same script on Capitol Hill: House Republicans pass piecemeal bills to reopen popular and politically sensitive programs -- on Friday, disaster relief and food aid for the poor -- while Democrats insist that the House vote on a straightforward Senate-passed measure to reopen all of government.

"We know that there are enough members in the House of Representatives -- Democrats and Republicans -- who are prepared to vote to reopen the government,' Obama said in an Associated Press interview Friday. "The only thing that is keeping that from happening is Speaker (John) Boehner has made a decision that he is going to hold out to see if he can get additional concessions from us."

Flinching by either side on the shutdown might be seen as weakening one's hand in an even more important fight looming just over the horizon as the combatants in Washington increasingly shifted their focus to a midmonth deadline for averting a first-ever default.

At issue in the shutdown is a temporary funding measure to keep the government fully open through mid-November or mid-December.

More than 100 stopgap continuing resolutions have passed without much difficulty since the last shutdown in 1996. But tea party Republicans, their urgency intensified by the rollout of health insurance marketplaces this month, are demanding concessions in Obama's health care law as their price for the funding legislation, sparking the shutdown impasse with Democrats.

Obama has said he won't negotiate on the temporary spending bill or upcoming debt limit measure, arguing they should be sent to him free of GOP add-ons. Congress, whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans, routinely sent Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, "clean" stopgap spending bills and debt-limit increases.

House Republicans appeared to be shifting their demands, de-emphasizing their previous insistence on defunding the health care overhaul in exchange for re-opening the government. Instead, they ramped up calls for cuts in federal benefit programs and future deficits, items that Boehner has said repeatedly will be part of any talks on debt limit legislation.

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sailfish1 wrote:
If they are going to pay the furloughed federal workers, they should get them back to work. It doesn't make sense to give the "nonessential" workers a free vacation.
on October 5,2013 | 09:04AM
Bdpapa wrote:
on October 5,2013 | 09:11AM
DAGR81 wrote:
What's next? If "nonessential" workers get paid vacations, do "essential" workers who are still working get double pay?
on October 5,2013 | 09:51AM
cojef wrote:
Gee, wish I could get a job like that! Stay home and still get paid becaue the Congress and the Administration cannot get along. A CEO of business gets fired if he did that!! There is no word in the dictionary to describe such foolish actions, and I am being kind.
on October 5,2013 | 10:38AM
kaupena wrote:
Do we even have the money for this??? Oh, I forgot, we have a printing press that runs anytime we want it to.
on October 5,2013 | 11:01AM
kahuku01 wrote:
Just do it! Every voter should remember and not vote for these clowns again. This is how the country will get rid of these morons who continuously play their games and hurt the people and the security of our country. Get rid of them during the election since they can't be fired like they do in the private sector. If we don't vote them out, that is a reflection of the stupidity of the people and the same games will continue in congress. VOTE THEM OUT!!! We all know who they are and what state they represent.
on October 5,2013 | 02:18PM
richierich wrote:
on October 5,2013 | 03:40PM
pcman wrote:
IRT DAG on pay back to essentials. In my work unit, when we had the furlough in the 95-96 period, some essential workers were offered a day off, if they wanted it. Few took it, as I recall.
on October 5,2013 | 11:25AM
pcman wrote:
IRT sailfish on paying non-essentials. As I said on day one, Obama made a mistake to call a "partial" furlough. He should have required all federal employees to work. If can declare a reduction in force, withholding annual COLA increases, freeze all civilian hiring, and other personnel actions as the executive, he can direct all civilian personnel to work as he did partially. Neither the House nor Senate wanted civilian pay to be cut, so there was no problem with the CR, when it comes.
on October 5,2013 | 10:47AM
mikethenovice wrote:
The Republican's plan backfired and will cost us more at the end. Just do it the right way the first time. Like a auto mechanic's error, the second time around is for free.
on October 5,2013 | 05:43PM
ezridah wrote:
wow nice vacation...
on October 5,2013 | 09:09AM
username_required wrote:
Optimal strategy for fed workers...take leave in September when all the EOY and "work on the plan to not work" BS happens. Come back Sept 30 to change out of office message. Start DIY home projects on Oct 1. Rinse, repeat with every CR, "fiscal cliff," and debt ceiling debate in DC.
on October 5,2013 | 09:22AM
mcc wrote:
If we pay them, put them to work. They are not political pawns, they work for the taxpayers, my share of taxes says work for pay, no work, no pay.
on October 5,2013 | 09:24AM
W_Williams wrote:
I agree with sailfish1. Free vacation just so the squabbling fools can win a "p-ing" contest? If we're going to pay them anyway, let them go back to work. I
on October 5,2013 | 09:25AM
DAGR81 wrote:
Obama really does not know what he is doing, He is confused and really has no clue what to do...but he can talk a good story.
on October 5,2013 | 09:45AM
cojef wrote:
What do expect from an ex-community organizer from Chicago with no business sense. Accountability is wholly lacking in his vocabulary. Costs cannot exceed revenue. If we ran our household budget like the govenment we would have no credit worth and would be bankrupt 10 times over. Congress is also in the same boat, they all stink to high heaven.
on October 5,2013 | 10:46AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
It's the way our government is set up that has led to this shutdown. We give people second and third chances, including law enforcement and the criminal justice system. If everyone got locked up for life, just for speeding for example, then we would soon shut down this entire nation. It's the human condition, as Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek noted many times: some of us smoke, some of drink alcohol until we get really drunk, some of us get involved in domestic violence, some of us have gotten so mixed up with the law, that we are habitually incarcerated, some of us have doctorates, so that we can teach at Harvard, some of us are homeless, some of us have incontinence lol, some of us like McDonald's, others Jack in the Box, some of us like Pacific Business News, some of us like The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, however ALL OF US breathe air, and will die. omg. Bottom line is I think we want to keep our country going, so please OPEN for business lol.
on October 5,2013 | 11:43AM
Noemo wrote:
There is no incentive for those who did not get furloughed. Of course, nobody asked for this, and it isn't fair to those who did get fruloughted, but If the Senate passes the bill also, what will stop those who are not furloughed from staying at home too? You don't need to be a Genius to figure it out? "I go work, I get paid.....I stay home, I get paid". I'd be down for the free vacation also! HAHA!
on October 5,2013 | 09:53AM
pcman wrote:
IRT Noemo on free vacation. In my work unit in the last furlough, the essential workers were mainly supervisors and branch chiefs. Most of them already worked 50-60 hours a week, so most did not mind working during the furlough. They were all big boys and not cry babies. Most, if not all were retired military personnel so they were used to working more than the 40 hour week. Great leaders and loyal civil servants.
on October 5,2013 | 11:39AM
earlson wrote:
Shouldn't they be required to work at least part time if they are going to get paid for the "furlough" days anyway? DC is really screwed up. All the legislators and president should be replaced if they are unwilling to compromise to reach a deal. Democracy is about governing by being willing to compromise for the good of the country. It's not one side or the other taking a hard stand because they think they can destroy the other party. It's time for the president to step up and lead, to be the great person we all believe him to be, to bring the 2 parties together.
on October 5,2013 | 09:53AM
bully106 wrote:
does our congress get any STUPIDER?????????
on October 5,2013 | 10:01AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
stupider is a good word, as my Safari browser let is pass without a spell check.
on October 5,2013 | 11:11AM
pcman wrote:
IRT bully on Congress. Actually, the furlough was a failure of leadership to work together several weeks ahead and to negotiate before the last day. Obama said he would "change" the way politicians work in Washington. He did not mean he was going to "improve" it. When Bush asked Congress to increase the debt, then Senator Obama called it a "lack of leadership." Obama calls his style, "leading from behind." Actually, I really don't see much change. Maybe it is worse.
on October 5,2013 | 11:48AM
This is utterly rediculous. If we, a person in the private sector had the same sort of scnarios, there would be no retro pay for our time missed. Makes absolutely no sense. We are closing the doors to save money, and yet retro back!!!????
on October 5,2013 | 10:18AM
DAGR81 wrote:
So now nonessential workers do not become "collateral damage", but all essential tax paying federal workers and other taxpayers become collateral damage.
on October 5,2013 | 10:18AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
First of all, please publish the law that says non-essential employees had to go on furlough in the first place. If they are non-essential, then why hire them in the first place? So are we saying that the last person on the totem pole at McDonald's is non-essential? Are we saying that Ashley Kastl is non-essential on the Rainbow Wahine Volleyball team?
on October 5,2013 | 11:06AM
Big C wrote:
This is really a sack of sh.t. Essentially all furloughed employee's receive an unexpected paid vacation. Does this mean that the essential working federal employee will be paid double time. This is typical of the non-reality think of todays Congress. Are they going to pay the non federal employee who were also furlough due to the government shutdown.
on October 5,2013 | 12:31PM
sahara11 wrote:
Fed workers get unemployment from the State and then get back pay on top of that? Is the state going to be reimbursed? How does that work? Heck we all want jobs like that
on October 5,2013 | 01:39PM
kahuku01 wrote:
VOTE THEM OUT at the next state election. We all know who the clowns are and what state they represent. If they're not voted out, there's no one else to blame but the voters of the states that they represent. JUST DO IT!!!
on October 5,2013 | 02:21PM
hanabatadayz wrote:
fed workers must be loving this paid vacation..i'm sure they don't want it to end anytime soon
on October 5,2013 | 03:30PM
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