Press Release

September 17, 2015
Cardin Pushes to Keep Federal Workers on the Job Despite Threats of a Shutdown

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), along with Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), have introduced legislation that would end Republican plans to use federal workers as pawns in their effort to shut down the federal government as a means to defund the important health care services provided by Planned Parenthood.


S. 2035, the Federal Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2015, requires that all federal workers furloughed as a result of any lapse in appropriations that may begin as soon as October 1st will receive their pay retroactively as soon as is practicable. The legislation was placed directly on the Legislative Calendar under Rule XIV of the Standing Rules of the Senate. Portions of the federal government would need to cease operations should the Republican majority should the Republican majority refuse to compromise with [Democrats and] the administration on a spending bill, or even a Continuing Resolution, before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1.


“Our bill is the right thing to do and the fair thing to do. Federal workers are dedicated public servants who simply want to do their jobs on behalf of the American people. They shouldn’t suffer because of extreme partisan gamesmanship,” said Senator Cardin. “Our tasks here in Congress are simple – not easy, perhaps, but simple: we need to keep the government open for business across the country and keep federal workers on the job.”


“America’s public servants should not suffer real hardships because of Republicans’ inability to govern responsibly.  A government shutdown not only would deny important services to the public, but would have especially harmful effects on the men and women who provide those services, and on their families,” said Senator Reid. “Federal workers keep America running.  Republicans should end their irresponsible strategy of governance by crisis and get to work for the American people.”


“Threats of a government shutdown are immensely disrespectful to the dedicated public servants and hardworking people across our country who get up every day help move America forward. Federal workers, veterans, and their families should not have to pay a price for partisan political games. They do their job and we have a responsibility to do ours by keeping the government open for business,” said Senator Baldwin.


“Federal employees are not to blame for the gridlock paralyzing Congress, yet too often they are forced to pay the price for the fiscal crises we create.  The men and women who make up the federal workforce are responsible for meeting some of the biggest challenges our country faces. This is not the way we should be treating them,” said Senator Carper. “This bill would address that injustice and adheres to one of my core principles: the ‘Golden Rule,’ to treat others as we want to be treated. Hardworking federal employees should be assured that they will receive the pay they are owed for their service regardless of whether Congress is able to do its job and pass spending bills to fund the government.”


“The federal workforce is an essential part of providing the services Americans rely on, and they shouldn’t be penalized by politics,” said Senator Gillibrand. “These safeguards will ensure that they will be able to support their families in the event of a government shutdown.”

“Our nation’s hardworking federal employees have endured furloughs, sequesters, pay freezes, and shutdowns,” said Senator Hirono. “They don’t deserve to live in uncertainty on how to make ends meet because of Republican games yet again this fall. For the second time in three years, federal employees, including more than 26,000 in Hawaii, are facing the threat of an unnecessary government shutdown and loss of pay. While we are working to reach a solution, it is important to ensure that we uphold our commitments in the event that Republican brinksmanship brings the federal government to a standstill.”

“I urge Congressional leaders to put fears of another unnecessary government shutdown to rest by reaching a budget compromise soon,” said Senator Kaine. “But should a shutdown occur, the Federal Employee Fair Treatment Act would provide financial certainty to our nation’s public servants.”


“Federal workers play vital everyday roles in every state including Vermont, where more than 4000 dedicated workers protect our borders and streets, process Social Security checks and manage the Green Mountain National Forest,” said Senator Leahy. “The shutdown that some in Congress seem intent on creating would not be these workers’ fault.  The blame belongs to some politicians who insist on their way or no way.  The American people and their federal workforce should not be punished with another avoidable, made-in-Washington crisis.  Congress should be able to find a reasonable and responsible way to keep the government running, and without throwing the livelihoods of federal workers and their families into doubt and disarray.”


“Federal employees deserve a government on their side working as hard for them as they work each and every day for America,” said Senator Mikulski. “Federal employees have been undervalued and underappreciated for too long. Each and every day, federal employees stand up for America. They shouldn’t be penalized because of the shutdown, slamdown politics of Congress. That’s why I will continue to stand up for federal employees, fighting for the pay and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.”


“Federal workers shouldn’t be punished just because some in Congress are more interested in playing politics than keeping the government up and running,” said Senator Warner. “These are real people who are working hard to serve the American people and provide for their families, and they should know that they will be able to put food on the table and pay their mortgages even if a manufactured political crisis leads to another government shutdown.”


Since 2011, federal workers have contributed $159 billion to deficit reduction.  They have endured a three-year pay freeze and two substandard pay increases since then, for a total of $137 billion.  They lost another $1 billion in pay because of sequestration-related furloughs.  Federal employees hired in 2013 and since 2014 are paying an extra $21 billion for their pensions.  And each and every federal worker is being asked to do more with less as agency budgets are frozen or cut.  This is happening to hardworking, patriotic public servants, mostly middle class and struggling to get by like so many other Americans. 


Shutting down the government also has a disproportional effect on veterans. Over 30 percent of civilian federal employees are veterans, as opposed to just 7.8 percent of the non-federal workforce.  In Texas, veterans comprise 37.5 percent of the civilian federal workforce. In Kentucky, it’s 33.9 percent. In Florida, it’s 38.9 percent. In South Carolina, it’s 41.7 percent. This is not how we should be honoring the men and women who have stood in harm’s way to defend our Nation.


The text of S. 2035 follows:



Federal Employee Fair Treatment Act



To provide for the compensation of Federal employees affected by a lapse in appropriations.



This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Federal Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2015’’.



Section 1341 of title 31, United States Code, is amended—


(1)      in subsection (a)(1), by striking ‘‘An officer’’ and inserting ‘‘Except as specified in this subchapter or any other provision of law, an officer’’; and


(2) by adding at the end the following:


‘‘(c)        (1) In this subsection—

‘‘(A) the term ‘covered lapse in appropriations’ means a lapse in appropriations that begins on or after October 1, 2015; and

‘‘(B) the term ‘excepted employee’ means an excepted employee or an employee performing emergency work, as such terms are defined by the Office of Personnel Management.


‘‘(2) Each Federal employee furloughed as a result of a covered lapse in appropriations shall be paid for the period of the lapse in appropriations, and each excepted employee who is required to perform work during a covered lapse in appropriations shall be paid for such work, at the employee’s standard rate of pay at the earliest date possible after the lapse in appropriations ends, regardless of scheduled pay dates.


‘‘(3) During a covered lapse in appropriations, each excepted employee who is required to perform work shall be entitled to use leave under chapter 63 of title 5, or any other applicable law governing the use of leave by the excepted employee, for which compensation shall be paid at the earliest date possible after the lapse in appropriations ends, regardless of scheduled pay dates.’’.