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house Bill H.R. 301

Should Essential Federal Workers Get Paid During Shutdowns?

Argument in favor

Requiring “essential” federal workers to work without pay during shutdowns is unfair and creates tremendous stress both for the employee tasked with a critical job and those who rely on them. It may also be a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act to require them to work without pay during shutdowns.

burrkitty's Opinion
···
01/18/2019
How about ending shutdowns permanently? Government shutdowns are a uniquely American flaw. So why is it that the U.S. government can simply shut down while in virtually any other country — no matter how submerged in partisan squabbles — the government keeps on ticking? Elsewhere in the world, constitutions or political systems prevent scenarios that would be comparable to the U.S. impasse, even though parliaments have a say on budgets there, too. The difference, however, is that most countries have installed specific mechanisms to escape a U.S.-style deadlock so that citizens don’t pay for partisan disagreements. In some countries, government budgets are even more associated with the fate of those in power themselves than in the United States — which, perhaps unexpectedly, often ends up helping to reach consensus or results in a more permanent solution. In Australia, for instance, budgets have to be passed or else the government is usually forced to resign or Parliament gets dissolved. What’s different in Australia and other countries is the threshold of lawmakers needed to confirm spending, though: an absolute majority, with over 50 percent of all members of Parliament, is sufficient. Hence, a failure to pass the budget usually only occurs when a government has lost the support of its own party or of the parties backing it. The inability to pass a budget also does not lead to an immediate funding stop but rather to a mere delay in planned investments, amounting to up to 25 percent of the annual budget. Similar mechanisms have long been in place in other countries influenced by Britain’s Westminster-style parliamentary system, including New Zealand, Bangladesh and Canada. In those nations, budget votes can become de-facto confidence votes on the government itself. In contrast, the Republicans in the United States need three-fifths of Senate members to pass most legislation, which means that they frequently rely on bipartisan support. (Trump recently urged a rewriting of Senate rules to be able to pass the spending bill with a simple majority, but his plans have so far been dismissed because they would also apply when Democrats gain a majority again.) While the U.S. president cannot simply be forced out of office in budget votes because of his independence within the bicameral political system, most other leaders abroad have far more to lose. Even if parliamentary systems are usually better equipped to eventually force an agreement on budgets without a government shutdown, there are rare cases of long and dangerous deadlocks. The British Parliament had to impose a budget on Northern Ireland in November after the country’s divided parties were unable to agree on a deal themselves. The imminent threat — local civil service running out of money within days — was strikingly similar to what is currently unfolding in the United States. Northern Ireland’s situation was unique, however. Its violent history has resulted in a fragile power-sharing agreement that cannot simply be dissolved. As a result, London had to step in to keep the cash flowing in the region, which is administratively part of the United Kingdom, even though it is usually governed by its own Parliament and prime minister. Mechanisms to prevent the de facto bankruptcy of the government are not unique to the Anglo-Saxon world. When the German government faced resistance to its spending bill in 2004 for the first time in contemporary history, the blockade of the upper house of Parliament was swiftly defeated by another vote in the government-dominated lower house. Even if then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had failed to rally his own coalition behind him to overturn the decision of Germany’s equivalent of the U.S. Senate, the repercussions would have been comparably less severe than in the United States. German employment law makes it impossible for government employees to be simply sent home because of a political dispute. Parliamentary systems have their own flaws, of course, as budget negotiations can become much more complicated when a minority government is in power. When Sweden's left-of-center minority government failed to pass its budget in 2014, it eventually had to agree to govern under a spending bill proposed by the opposition. The country was still never at risk of a government shutdown. Ironically, things become a little easier when there is no elected government in place at all. Belgium was without a government for 589 days between 2010 and 2011, but the money there kept flowing, too. When European coalition talks fail or drag on for months — as it is currently the case in Germany — the most recent budget usually continues to apply and is administered by the previous government that is in place until a new leadership takes over. Hence, civil servants continue to be paid and government-funded construction projects are not halted. “Things that won’t be funded [during this period] are, for instance, new development schemes, new construction plans or additional military investments,” Eckhardt Rehberg, a conservative German budgetary affairs spokesman, recently explained to broadcaster ARD. Germany may technically be without a budget since Jan. 1, but so far nobody appears to have noticed it. That’s mainly because Germans have learned from history that government shutdowns tend to be one of the least successful measures to force cross-party cooperation. In the 19th century, Prussian King Wilhelm I — who later became known as the first German emperor — faced off with Prussia’s parliament (located in today’s Berlin) in a seven-year long dispute over the funding of a military expansion. Throughout that period, the monarch almost resigned, the parliament became increasingly hostile and divided, and the military expansion remained unfunded. When Germans rewrote their constitution after World War II, much of it was based on the U.S. model. The possibility of government shutdowns, however, didn’t make it into the German Grundgesetz — very much so on purpose.
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Kathryn 's Opinion
···
01/18/2019
Federal employees shouldn’t have to suffer for the actions, or inactions, of congress. Congress members should suffer for their own actions, they are the ones that should not be paid during shut downs....I guarantee they’d get their crap together right quick if their own livelihood was on the line!
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Stewart's Opinion
···
01/18/2019
My Dad has served his country for almost thirty years as an FBI Special Agent. He is 6 months from retiring, and now because of a wall that over 60 percent of the country does not support, he will have to pull money out of the retirement fund he worked his ass off for to pay his mortgage until the shutdown end. I would say I hope someone takes EVERYTHING Donald Trump has worked for away from him but he hasn’t worked for fucking ANYTHING!
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Argument opposed

The government can’t spend money that hasn’t been appropriated, so there’s no way for it to legally pay workers during shutdowns. Essential workers are performing critical tasks like keeping air travelers safe and securing the border that can’t stop just because Congress couldn’t get its act together.

Osmar's Opinion
···
01/18/2019
ALL workers should get paid, not just “essentials”, even just a fraction of their paychecks.
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S's Opinion
···
01/18/2019
Pay all federal workers. Dividing them into essential or non essential categories just allows a shutdown to go on longer.
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Tim's Opinion
···
01/18/2019
No. No work, no pay. Unemployment insurance should cover this.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Appropriations
    IntroducedJanuary 8th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 301?

This bill — the Providing Pay for Essential Employees Act — would ensure that federal workers deemed essential during government shutdowns receive their pay. Federal workers deemed “essential” include air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents, and federal law enforcement officials.

Impact

Essential federal workers; government shutdowns; budget; air traffic controllers; Border Patrol agents; and federal law enforcement officials.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 301

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) introduced this bill to pay essential federal workers during government shutdowns:

“While Democrats continue to play politics with border security, federal employees dedicated to their mission of keeping America safe and our border secure are still going to work knowing they will be missing their paychecks. They should not be caught in the middle of political ploys by politicians who are not serious about securing our border.  If they are working to protect America and the lives of our citizens, they should be getting their paychecks on time. We shouldn’t be forcing these men and women to shoulder the burden of Democrats’ unwillingness to work with President Trump and Congressional Republicans to solve the humanitarian and security crisis on our Southern Border.”

The FBI Agents Association has urged Congress to provide pay for the Dept. of Justice and FBI in order to preserve national security:

“Pay uncertainty undermines the FBI’s ability to recruit and retain high-caliber professionals.  Special Agents are skilled professionals who have a variety of employment options in the private sector. The ongoing financial insecurity caused by the failure to fund the FBI could lead some FBI Agents to consider career options that provide more stability for their families. The men and women of the FBI proudly serve this nation and are honored to protect our country and Constitution from all threats, foreign and domestic. We are confident that our leaders share this commitment to protecting our country and will find a path forward to fund the DOJ and the FBI.  As those on the frontlines in the fight against criminals and terrorists, we urge expediency before financial insecurity compromises national security.”

Minna Kotkin, director of the Employment Law Clinic at Brooklyn Law School, says it’s a clear FLSA violation to require workers to work without pay:

“The Fair Labor Standards Act requires workers to be paid at least the minimum wage for hours they worked in a timely fashion. There is a legitimate claim that [forcing federal employees to work without pay] is violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

The Trump administration is using a law called the Antideficiency Act to justify its failure to pay workers. That law says the government can’t spend money that hasn’t been appropriated. However, Kotkin notes that “[t]he Antideficiency Act only goes so far as to say you don’t get paid. It doesn’t say anything about having to work.

This bill has 19 cosponsors, all of whom are Republicans.


Of NoteDuring the current shutdown, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has sued the U.S. government for requiring essential employees to work without pay during the shutdown. AFGE alleges that the government is violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by forcing these employees to work without pay. AFGE president J. David Cox called the requirement that some federal employees work without pay “inhumane”:

"Our nation's heroes, AFGE members and their families deserve the decency of knowing when their next paycheck is coming and that they will be paid for their work. Our intent is to force the government and the administration to make all federal employees whole."

The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) has also filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, seeking back pay, including overtime and damages, for excepted employees required to work during the partial shutdown. Like AFGE, the NTEU also argues that the government’s failure to pay overtime and minimum wages is a direct violation of the FLSA.

In the current shutdown, about 420,000 federal employees across different government agencies are working without pay. As the shutdown continues, the Trump administration keeps designating more and more of the federal workforce essential, ordering workers back to process tax returns, perform safety inspections, and more without pay.

In the 2013 shutdown, a court awarded back pay to federal employees in a class action suit, setting a precedent that indicates the courts seem to agree working without pay is an FLSA violation.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / ronstik)

AKA

Providing Pay for Essential Employees Act

Official Title

Making appropriations for Federal employees working during the Government shutdown beginning on or about December 22, 2018, and for other purposes.

    How about ending shutdowns permanently? Government shutdowns are a uniquely American flaw. So why is it that the U.S. government can simply shut down while in virtually any other country — no matter how submerged in partisan squabbles — the government keeps on ticking? Elsewhere in the world, constitutions or political systems prevent scenarios that would be comparable to the U.S. impasse, even though parliaments have a say on budgets there, too. The difference, however, is that most countries have installed specific mechanisms to escape a U.S.-style deadlock so that citizens don’t pay for partisan disagreements. In some countries, government budgets are even more associated with the fate of those in power themselves than in the United States — which, perhaps unexpectedly, often ends up helping to reach consensus or results in a more permanent solution. In Australia, for instance, budgets have to be passed or else the government is usually forced to resign or Parliament gets dissolved. What’s different in Australia and other countries is the threshold of lawmakers needed to confirm spending, though: an absolute majority, with over 50 percent of all members of Parliament, is sufficient. Hence, a failure to pass the budget usually only occurs when a government has lost the support of its own party or of the parties backing it. The inability to pass a budget also does not lead to an immediate funding stop but rather to a mere delay in planned investments, amounting to up to 25 percent of the annual budget. Similar mechanisms have long been in place in other countries influenced by Britain’s Westminster-style parliamentary system, including New Zealand, Bangladesh and Canada. In those nations, budget votes can become de-facto confidence votes on the government itself. In contrast, the Republicans in the United States need three-fifths of Senate members to pass most legislation, which means that they frequently rely on bipartisan support. (Trump recently urged a rewriting of Senate rules to be able to pass the spending bill with a simple majority, but his plans have so far been dismissed because they would also apply when Democrats gain a majority again.) While the U.S. president cannot simply be forced out of office in budget votes because of his independence within the bicameral political system, most other leaders abroad have far more to lose. Even if parliamentary systems are usually better equipped to eventually force an agreement on budgets without a government shutdown, there are rare cases of long and dangerous deadlocks. The British Parliament had to impose a budget on Northern Ireland in November after the country’s divided parties were unable to agree on a deal themselves. The imminent threat — local civil service running out of money within days — was strikingly similar to what is currently unfolding in the United States. Northern Ireland’s situation was unique, however. Its violent history has resulted in a fragile power-sharing agreement that cannot simply be dissolved. As a result, London had to step in to keep the cash flowing in the region, which is administratively part of the United Kingdom, even though it is usually governed by its own Parliament and prime minister. Mechanisms to prevent the de facto bankruptcy of the government are not unique to the Anglo-Saxon world. When the German government faced resistance to its spending bill in 2004 for the first time in contemporary history, the blockade of the upper house of Parliament was swiftly defeated by another vote in the government-dominated lower house. Even if then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had failed to rally his own coalition behind him to overturn the decision of Germany’s equivalent of the U.S. Senate, the repercussions would have been comparably less severe than in the United States. German employment law makes it impossible for government employees to be simply sent home because of a political dispute. Parliamentary systems have their own flaws, of course, as budget negotiations can become much more complicated when a minority government is in power. When Sweden's left-of-center minority government failed to pass its budget in 2014, it eventually had to agree to govern under a spending bill proposed by the opposition. The country was still never at risk of a government shutdown. Ironically, things become a little easier when there is no elected government in place at all. Belgium was without a government for 589 days between 2010 and 2011, but the money there kept flowing, too. When European coalition talks fail or drag on for months — as it is currently the case in Germany — the most recent budget usually continues to apply and is administered by the previous government that is in place until a new leadership takes over. Hence, civil servants continue to be paid and government-funded construction projects are not halted. “Things that won’t be funded [during this period] are, for instance, new development schemes, new construction plans or additional military investments,” Eckhardt Rehberg, a conservative German budgetary affairs spokesman, recently explained to broadcaster ARD. Germany may technically be without a budget since Jan. 1, but so far nobody appears to have noticed it. That’s mainly because Germans have learned from history that government shutdowns tend to be one of the least successful measures to force cross-party cooperation. In the 19th century, Prussian King Wilhelm I — who later became known as the first German emperor — faced off with Prussia’s parliament (located in today’s Berlin) in a seven-year long dispute over the funding of a military expansion. Throughout that period, the monarch almost resigned, the parliament became increasingly hostile and divided, and the military expansion remained unfunded. When Germans rewrote their constitution after World War II, much of it was based on the U.S. model. The possibility of government shutdowns, however, didn’t make it into the German Grundgesetz — very much so on purpose.
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    ALL workers should get paid, not just “essentials”, even just a fraction of their paychecks.
    Like (95)
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    Federal employees shouldn’t have to suffer for the actions, or inactions, of congress. Congress members should suffer for their own actions, they are the ones that should not be paid during shut downs....I guarantee they’d get their crap together right quick if their own livelihood was on the line!
    Like (151)
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    My Dad has served his country for almost thirty years as an FBI Special Agent. He is 6 months from retiring, and now because of a wall that over 60 percent of the country does not support, he will have to pull money out of the retirement fund he worked his ass off for to pay his mortgage until the shutdown end. I would say I hope someone takes EVERYTHING Donald Trump has worked for away from him but he hasn’t worked for fucking ANYTHING!
    Like (102)
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    It would appear states and local governments need to create contingency plans for when, rather than if, there is a government shutdown. It is absolutely ridiculous that 2 leaders neither of whom the majority of constituents approve of, are holding an entire nation of 325.7 million people hostage. One due to a xenophobic fear and the other for personal profiteering (wage-slavery for California’s agriculture: wineries). Make no mistake this “War of the Walls” is NOT over any concerns about the welfare of this nation’s lawful citizens. https://www.npr.org/2018/05/03/607996811/worker-shortage-hurts-californias-agriculture-industry
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    Pay all federal workers. Dividing them into essential or non essential categories just allows a shutdown to go on longer.
    Like (48)
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    No one can survive without pay especially due to some selfish prick in office. Im saying it now, we are going witness human extinction at the rate we are going with all these stupid decision making.
    Like (46)
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    Everyone should be paid!!!
    Like (39)
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    DEMOCRATIC DEMAGOGUERY IN ACTION I’m in agreement that there shouldn’t be a Shutdown so tell your Democratic Comrades together off of their butts and act as they were elected to do their duly elected duties and legislate the solution to their created Shutdown rather than keeping PI$$ING off not only their constituents but the rest of the nation. SneakyPete......... 👿👿👿👿👿. 1*19*19........
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    Yes. And more importantly. FIX this issue. Get government functional. Get to work.
    Like (23)
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    Yes, also the shut down should end now and the rest should all go back to work plus get back pay! The republicans need to take back the party from a bunch of boot Licker and ass kisser.
    Like (23)
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    THERE SHOULD NEVER BE A SHUTDOWN IN GOVERNMENT!!!
    Like (21)
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    Why is this even a question?
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    No. No work, no pay. Unemployment insurance should cover this.
    Like (17)
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    They need to stop allowing government shutdowns to be used as a negotiation tool. The stability of our economy, the livelihoods of our workers, the security of our country. These shouldn’t be bargaining chips for people who don’t know compromise.
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    I'm so confused at some of the questions that apparently need to asked. Like, should people performing essential duties be paid?!?! Really? Why is this even a question? It costs money to even get to work, so yes, absolutely, pay them.
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    If those responsible for shut down are paid, surely essential workers deserve the same.
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    I’m going to change my mind on this and say yes. However, non essential employees should not receive back pay for not working. People in the private sector do not get that benefit.
    Like (13)
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    It’s wrong to punish public servants when having a disagreement on policy. You’re punishing many others indirectly, including children, retired people, and people who can’t afford medication they need. There should be a law passed prohibiting government shutdowns. You can’t always get your way. Grow up.
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    No employee should be held hostage by their government
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