Shutdown’s Likely ‘Paid Vacation’ for Federal Employees

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October 5, 2013; The Blaze

Early on Saturday, the recalcitrant, unable-to-collaborate, viciously divided U.S. House of Representatives voted 407 to 0 to promise federal workers retroactive pay for the days—or weeks—of work they’ll miss due to the government shutdown.

Something doesn’t make sense here. If, in the midst of a government shutdown in which operating funds for the fiscal year haven’t been appropriated, Congress (assuming on this score the Senate agrees with the House) is able to promise the 800,000 to 1,000,000 furloughed federal employees back pay, why do we have to have a government shutdown? What’s the difference between awarding workers back pay for some as-of-yet-undetermined period of time and awarding them their pay right now so that they stay on the job?

If House Republicans could promise that the prospective FY14 continuing resolution will include funds for the FY14 retrospective salary expenses that would have been incurred but for the shutdown, they could approve those funds right now and keep government fully operational—or at least as operational as some in Congress will permit, due to their ideology of debilitating the federal government to the point of near-anarchy.

Congratulations to all the federal employees who, like nonprofits fronting delayed government contract reimbursements, will know that their financial hardships right now are meant to be only temporary. The sluggish economy should take a hit from the lost consumer and government spending during the days and weeks of the shutdown, but at least there will be a cash infusion to soften the blow at some time in the future—though don’t forget, many of these federal employees have been on reduced hours due to the sequestration and have another year’s worth of that coming to cut into their paychecks.

But consider this anomaly: House Republicans, against the advice of many in their own party, monomaniacally shut down government, motivated in part by their pique against government spending. Rather than seeing federal employees work a day’s work for a day’s wages, however, they choose to give federal workers a “paid vacation,” in the words of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

With the military promised their paychecks, the Pentagon somehow able to recall 350,000 civilian employees back to their jobs, and now the House voting to give all federal workers their retroactive salaries, both parties are acknowledging that government has to function and a continuing resolution is inevitable. Get on with it already!—Rick Cohen

  • MLK

    I worked without pay for a month during the furlough in the 90s and I’m working without pay during this furlough. I am NOT GETTING A PAID VACATION.

    Because I am working, without pay, I still have to pay for gas and parking to get to my job.


  • Rick Cohen

    Dear MLK: “Paid Vacation” was Senator Reid’s term, not ours. It just seems that the shutdown should be ended and government opened up.

  • Candace King

    PLEASE! Don’t refer to the government shutdown as a ‘paid vacation’!

    When you’re on a real ‘paid vacation’, you know when you’re going to go back to work, and you’re going to get paid on time. This is not the case for the Federal employees who are home due to the shutdown. Further, even if they do pay the Federal employees, what about the contractors and the grantees? The Head Start teachers probably aren’t going to get paid at all because they work for the grantee organizations, not the Federal government.

    Even if the Federal employees do ultimately get paid for this time, their paychecks will certainly be late. And with the sequester continuing, they will return to their jobs only to face later unpaid furloughs, and the need to do the same amount of work in less time.

    Last, it’s insulting to refer to parts of the Federal workforce as non-essential. One program that is considered ‘non-essential’ is EPA’s Residential Lead program, which ensures that contractors doing residential remodeling follow lead safe practices. This program protects children from becoming lead poisoned, which can cause permanent brain damage in infants and young children exposed to lead dust in their homes.


  • Rick Cohen

    Dear Candace: I didn’t call it a paid vacation: Senator Reid did, why, I don’t know. It just seems to us that the shutdown should be over and employees returned to their jobs.

  • DBC

    A paid vacation is planned fun. You know when you will be off, and when you must be ready to return to work. Having the doors to the office locked while you know you have bills to pay today and work that will be due tomorrow (or whenever tomorrow comes) is stressful. How many of us live paycheck to paycheck? Most federal workers are in the same situation. Congresswoman Renee Elmers, R, NC, who supports the shutdown said she would continue to take her paycheck because: “I need my paycheck. That’s the bottom line.” Lucky for her she can get paid now, while others are racking up credit card bills to buy groceries.

    No, this is not a vacation, these people are merely pawns to the Tea Party extremists and they – and we – have every right to be angry about this unnecessary and destructive shutdown and its impact on the very people we rely upon to do the work to keep our government running.

  • bill

    what about the people its already used their vacation for the year and then still get back pay why are the workers have to work

  • Rick Cohen

    Dear DBC: There’s no reason that government shouldn’t be running. The shutdown should be ended.

  • EMM

    This does not feel like a vacation to me. I cannot plan anything, because when congress finally resolves this situation, those of us on furlough, have four hours to return to work (the next day, if the resolution comes in the afternoon).

    I spend a lot of time thinking about the backlog of work sitting in my file cabinet waiting to be done … and the people waiting for me to do my job. That said, I understand that I have a lot to be thankful for, that I will eventually be paid for a work deferral that I never would have chosen to have happen and I pray every day to get back to work.

  • Terry Fernsler

    Well, the comments appear to be from a few government employees speaking out for their own self interests. What we don’t see in the comments are the voices of those who will NOT get a “paid” vacation–those relying on Head Start, LIHEAP, block grants, and SNAP. To us at Third Sector Radio USA, this is the real motivation behind the Great Republican Lockout–let those without voice fend for themselves–or not at all.

  • Rick Cohen

    Dear Terry: Look for that in my Thursday Cohen Report–unless somehow the stand-off is ended before that.

  • Terry Fernsler

    Can always count on you.