09.17.15

Leahy Joins In Introducing Bill To Prevent Punishing Federal Workers In The Event Of A Government Shutdown Threatened By Some In Congress

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, Sept. 17, 2015) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has joined in introducing legislation to prevent using federal workers as pawns if some in Congress have their way in forcing a government shutdown over their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides crucial health care to women in Vermont and across the country. 

Leahy said:  “Federal workers play vital everyday roles in every state including Vermont, where more than 4,000 dedicated workers protect our borders and streets, process Social Security checks and manage the Green Mountain National Forest.  The shutdown that some in Congress seem intent on creating would not be these workers’ fault.  The blame belongs to some politicians who insist on their way or no way.  The American people and their federal workforce should not be punished with another avoidable, made-in-Washington crisis.  Congress should be able to find a reasonable and responsible way to keep the government running, and without throwing the livelihoods of federal workers and their families into doubt and disarray.”

The bill, the Federal Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2015, requires that all federal workers furloughed as a result of any lapse in appropriations that may begin as soon as October 1st will receive their pay retroactively as soon as is practicable.  The legislation was placed directly on the Senate’s Legislative Calendar under Rule XIV of the Standing Rules of the Senate.  Portions of the federal government would need to cease operations should the Republican majority refuse to compromise on a budget bill before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1.

Leahy is an original cosponsor of the bill, sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and cosponsored also by Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.).

In 2013, a Republican-led effort shut down the federal government over their disagreement with one law, the Affordable Care Act.

Since 2011, federal workers have contributed $159 billion to deficit reduction.  They have endured a three-year pay freeze and two substandard pay increases since then, for a total of $137 billion.  They lost another $1 billion in pay because of sequestration-related furloughs.  Federal employees hired in 2013 and since 2014 are paying an extra $21 billion for their pensions.  And every federal worker is being asked to do more with less as agency budgets are frozen or cut.   

Shutting down the government also has a disproportional effect on veterans.  More than 30 percent of civilian federal employees are veterans, and just 7.8 percent of the non-federal workforce.   

The text of S. 2035  can be found here.

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