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.
Join the Grit Post Mailing List!
Get real news for the working class. Sign up today!
Sponsored by: Grit Post