Vermont Congressman Peter Welch announced today he plans to introduce legislation that would require furloughed federal workers deemed “essential” to be immediately paid their back salary.
Congressman Welch, a Democrat, says his “Never Again Bill” would accomplish two goals by paying current federal employees affected by the record shutdown and requiring in the future that federal employees who must work must be paid. “I want us to pass legislation that would immediately compensate the people in the federal government who have been required to come in to work at the pain of punishment if they don’t. And number two to require that if there’s ever a lapse in appropriations and individuals are deemed quote essential, meaning they have to come into work anyway, that they get paid. And that would mean that in the future if the President or if Congress was going to use shutdown as a tactic they would have to affirmatively vote not to pay people. And I can tell you this that no member of Congress and no President, I would hope, in good conscience could ever impose that burden on workers.”
Congressman Welch criticized President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, both Republicans, for allowing the government shutdown to last more than a month. Welch has signed a letter to the two that he says outlines sensible options to deal with the border wall debate. “Number one reopen government. Number two we will have hearings in committee on the President’s proposals for border security. Number three we will commit to having a vote on the floor for whatever the President wants to propose. And number four we will allow Republicans and Democrats to amend that bill and have a debate about what should be our proper border security.”
Welch made his comments at the Burlington International Airport where the Burlington offices of the National Weather Service is located. Considered essential employees, the National Weather Service workers are not getting paid. National Weather Service Employees’ union vice-steward and Weather Service Observing Program Leader Marlon Verasamy says Welch’s proposal is a good step forward. “We need a first step and that’s what we haven’t seen yet. And I’m very happy that Representative Welch is trying to make that happen right now. All of us in the office are right now not at that breaking point yet but that point right now where we’re seriously looking at our budgets and do we get through our foreseeable future and it’s a struggle for a lot of us right now. For all of us we want to come to work, we want to do our job, we want to help serve our community and serve our country. To be used in the middle of a political debate for us is something that demoralizes all of us and it causes a struggle every day for all of us to have to keep fighting through to do our job and continue to come in with high morale and high motivation to do our job.”
This is supposed to be a Congressional district work period, but House members are returning to Washington as negotiations continue.