back pay

The House of Representatives recently passed a bill to make sure the approximately 800,000 federal employees out of work will get back pay for the shutdown.

411 House members voted for the bill, passing it with overwhelming support. However, seven House Republicans — all of whom are drawing an annual Congressional salary of at least $174,000 — disagreed.

Reps. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), Andy Biggs (R-Arizona), Paul Gosar (R-Arizona), Glenn Grothman (R-Wisconsin), Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky), Chip Roy (R-Texas), and Ted Yoho (R-Florida) were the only votes in opposition to the bill.

“We can work out something, for some sort of compensation, but to get paid full pay for maybe three or four months when you’re not working?” Rep. Grothman told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

“That’s why we’re $22 trillion in debt. These people around here can’t say no to anything,” he added.

Of course, the spending Grothman bemoaned is just a small portion of discretionary spending — the money appropriated by Congress for federal expenditures not related to programs like Social Security and Medicare. In Fiscal Year 2011, for example, The Washington Post reported that all federal employee compensation, including money for pensions and healthcare packages, was just $200 billion.

When compared to the Republican tax cuts of 2017, which are racking up approximately $150 billion each year in cost, or the $21 trillion the Pentagon lost track of between 1998 and 2015, $200 billion in federal employee compensation is, in the grand scheme of things, a drop in the budget bucket.

And in any case, back pay is due to the thousands of federal employees who are currently working for free due to their jobs being classified as “essential.” Federal air traffic controllers, for example, recently got checks for $0.00 due to having to work during the shutdown for no pay. However, no back pay is currently guaranteed for the thousands of federal contractors who are not on a W-2 arrangement with the federal government.

It’s also worth mentioning that forcing people to work without pay is slavery, which has been outlawed in the United States since the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in the mid-19th century.

The bill guaranteeing back pay is not likely to get a vote in the full senate. Neither is a recent bill by Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) to prevent creditors and landlords from taking action against federal employees unable to pay bills due to the shutdown.


Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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    1. Thanks Paul Gosart, you suck! My niece/godchild who works for the Coast Guard should not get paid her meager salary while doing her job while you continue to receive your inflated paycheck! America! Give me a break!

      1. He stinks. Unfortunately for me, he is in Arizona, What an evil thing that man is. Like Trump. They have no decency, no empathy. But this is going to blow up in Trump’s face, and that will trickle down on Gosart. Fortunately for me, I’m nowhere near that thing in Arizona. Finally got a Democratic congresswoman.

        1. And unfortunately since they both have an (R) by their names, the sheeple in AZ keep voting them back into office no matter what they do.

      1. I understand and I am starting to share those feelings with you! Not only did they vote them in, but are becoming more hateful by the day with vicious cold hearts.

    2. These cretins have some nerve after doing nothing for this country while Obama was president and the two years Dumbo has been in office – they should be getting $0.00 pay stubs for taking up space in Congress. Totally astonished at their gall and do-nothing work ethic!!!!

    3. What do these guys think about the thousands of U.S. Foreign Service employees stuck overseas in third wold countries who have been laid off, but not given a ticket to return to the U.S. They are unable to collect unemployment benefits, and are not allowed to work in their host countries. Or the thousands who are in places where the cost of living is insane, like Norway, Singapore or Japan, were the groceries for a week is over $500. These Federal workers are also stuck, with no pay, far from families back home. I remember how insane the Republicans were about Bengazi, yet the same folks on the front line in those countries are stuck there, out of work, but can’t leave, and in some places, the funds to pay for their security is running out soon. This Federal Shutdown affects a lot of people outside the USA too.

    4. and he says “these people”????????????? Like who the heck is he to talk? Where did his mother find him?? His “brilliant” comment is made judging that maybe “4 months” is too long to have been put out of work by genious #45?? That it is HER FAULT??? And he is being “Noble” and “gifting” her out of the “goodness of his heart”? I sure am happy that he has nothing to do with my neighborhood!!!! Wake up and smell the roses you bum!!!!

    5. I am so ashamed of our President and both the Democrats and Republicans who have stooped so low as to cause so much pain and heartache to the American people. Yes, I agree we need a wall so immigrants will be required to enter our country legally just as my parents did many years ago. They became proud Americans, worked hard and paid their taxes as it should be. It is time to stop the insanity that is taking place. Our President and Congress need to stop blaming one another and work out a solution that does not bring such hardship on so many innocent people. With this shutdown, Congress etc. are still receiving a salary, and my question is….. why? If government employees must work without pay/ back pay, then so should they. Our President and Congress need to stop this childish behavior. Threats by our President that this can go on for a very long time makes me cringe, and I can only imagine at this time what the consequences will be. The people who have no trouble financially should count their blessings every day.

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