Connolly-Moran retroactive pay bill wins unanimous passage in the House

Reps. Connolly and Moran at a recent news conference (Staff photo)

Reps. Connolly and Moran at a recent news conference (Staff photo)

The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously passed legislation introduced by Northern Virginia Democrat Jim Moran and co-sponsored by Rep. Gerry Connolly.

The “Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act” (H.R. 3223), passed 407-0. The bipartisan proposal ensures all federal employees receive retroactive pay for the duration of a federal government shutdown, regardless of furlough status.

“Today’s legislation guarantees that retroactive pay for our Federal employees will not become a political bargaining chip,” Moran said.  “This is an issue of fairness.  800,000 federal employees are already weathering the effects of pay freezes, benefit cuts, and furloughs; and now, because of a dysfunctional Congress, they’ve had to worry about even receiving a paycheck.”

“I’m glad my friends across the aisle were able to put aside their ideological crusade to dismantle Obamacare and get behind this legislation.  Their approach has already wrought too much hardship and today’s vote ensures it won’t hit the family budgets of our civil servants,” Moran said.

“The passage of this legislation provides a level of certainty for tens of thousands of federal employees in Virginia and hundreds of thousands across the nation who have mortgages and bills to pay,” Connolly said. The Senate leadership has signaled the bill will pass that body and the White House indicated President Obama would sign it.  “This is a victory for federal employees and the dignity of public service,” Connolly said. “I hope the passage of today’s bill to make federal employees whole marks the beginning of the end of the philosophy embraced by many in the House majority that denigrates and devalues federal employees no matter the costs.”

More than 800,000 federal workers faced the prospect of lost wages due to the government shutdown that began Monday night. 

Unlike the piecemeal bills that Republicans have brought to the Floor that selectively fund certain government agencies while keeping other agencies shut, H.R. 3223 treats all federal employees equally and makes them financially whole when the shutdown ends.

While the Washington Metropolitan Region is home to the highest concentration of federal workers in the country, 85 percent of Federal workers live outside the region.

After weathering three years of pay freezes, pension cuts, and insulting and demeaning comments from the House leadership and many other House Republicans, our hard-working federal workers are now faced with a loss of pay through no fault of their own,” Connolly said. “It is shameful that federal workers are paying the price for the government shutdown. We want to resolve this issue now and make these dedicated public servants whole when the shutdown ends.”

“President Obama recognizes the vital role federal employees play in the lives of millions of Americans.  He understands the commitment we’ve made to our civil servants and the importance of honoring that commitment. Failure to make good on our promise because Tea Party ideologues shut down the government in an effort to cripple the health care law is no excuse,” Rep. Moran said.

Workers are stressed

Connolly’s 11th Congressional District of Virginia contains more than 60,000 federal workers.

“I’ve heard from many federal workers who are worried sick that they won’t be able to pay their bills and mortgages because of the amount of income they will lose due to the furlough,” Connolly said. “Their anxiety is heightened because of the uncertainty of when they will even receive their next paycheck.”

He cited these examples:

Take the case of the mother of two children in diapers, a federal worker who is the sole wage-earner in her household, who worries how she will be able to pay her mortgage, car payment, Fairfax County personal property taxes, and day care fees this month. Or think of the plight of the civilian employee of the Navy who has experienced two furloughs and a mass shooting this year. Living paycheck to paycheck, this federal worker worries about feeding his family of five and staying afloat, like tens of thousands of other federal employees in Northern Virginia and across the Commonwealth.

Or the situation faced by the single mother of a teenage son in Fairfax, furloughed from her job at FEMA, who is frantically applying for retail store jobs, unemployment, reduced school-lunch for her child, and other services to try and make up for her loss in income.

And then there is the case of the NASA team leader in charge of solar system exploration and the rover mission to Mars. Now furloughed, he still traveled to Washington earlier this week to accept a prestigious award for outstanding federal workers from the Partnership for Public Service.

Similar hardships

“There are hundreds of families in my district who will face similar financial hardships or worse if we do not guarantee they will receive their regular paychecks when House Republicans finally agree to end their shutdown and allow federal employees to return to their jobs“ Connolly said. “It is unacceptable for our federal workers to be held hostage because the House leadership continues their repeated efforts to defund a law that has already been approved by Congress, signed by the President, and ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Connolly and Moran introduced an identical retroactive pay bill in the last Congress when it appeared that there was the possibility of a government shutdown. In previous government shutdowns, federal employees have received retroactive pay and Connolly said, “this latest shutdown should be no different.”

Connolly said, “Federal employees do not deserve to be punished.”