With major parts of the federal government still shut down as the nation moves into week two of the standoff, a brief moment of compromise emerged over the weekend, when a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives approved a bill that will compensate furloughed federal employees with back pay for wages lost during the shutdown.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor congratulated his party and other colleagues in the House by claiming they had just taken “another step to try and ease the pain of the federal government shutdown.”
The White House also voiced strong support for the bill. “Federal workers keep the Nation safe and secure and provide vital services that support the economic security of American families,” a statement from the White House read. “The Administration appreciates that the Congress is acting promptly to move this bipartisan legislation and looks forward to the bill’s swift passage.”
Restoring back pay to federal workers is “something Congresses have done every time there’s been a shutdown, and it’s something bipartisan majorities support,” White House spokesman Jay Carney added on Friday.
Providing wages to these employees may seem like a fairly insignificant bright spot considering the overall failure of elected official execute the basic duties of governance. But for federal workers themselves, this agreement is a significant break. Oftentimes the system does nothing to protect or compensate workers who are victimized by discrimination, wrongful termination, a wage dispute, or some illegal employment practice involving FMLA or ADA—leaving those workers to turn to an employment attorneys to defend their rights and help them receive the compensation they deserve. At the very least, then, the House bill ensures that furloughed federal workers will not be denied pay because of the continued fallout from the shutdown.
Unfortunately, this agreement is where the bipartisan cooperation ends, at least for the time being.
Democrats and Republicans remain deeply divided, with House and Senate Democrats demanding a vote on the original “clean” bill, which would reopen the government with no strings attached, while Republicans continue to call for some kind of concession from Democrats on Obamacare before allow the shutdown to end.