Senate passes bill granting back pay to furloughed workers amid rallies

Senate passes bill granting back pay to furloughed workers amid rallies

This article was originally posted by UPI on January 10, 2019. 

Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The Senate on Thursday passed a bill to ensure furloughed federal workers will get back pay as workers carried out demonstrations across the country calling for an end to the shutdown.

The Senate passed the bill a voice vote. The chamber passed an earlier version last month but it had to be approved again by the new Senate.Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said President Donald Trump promised him he would sign the legislation. The concession to federal workers came amid nationwide rallies calling for an end to the shutdown.

The FBI Agents Association urged the White House and Congress in a petition to fund the FBI and the Justice Department, saying that while agents continue to work without pay, they are operating with limited resources, which is endangering national security.

While federal employees planned to show their disapproval of the shutdown publicly, McConnell blocked two bills Thursday that were passed by the House last week. The bills would have approved new funding and reopened the federal government without the $5.7 billion Trump seeks for the border wall.

McConnell called them "pointless" show votes that Trump would reject. One bill would have funded the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8, and the other would have funded the other eight agencies through Sept. 30.

He also blocked an effort from Senate Republicans Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee and Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina.

The group proposed re-opening the government for a short period of time to allow broader immigration discussions including relief for undocumented immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or assistance for 400,000 immigrants from Haiti and Central American who are set to lose their Temporary Protected Status this year.

Graham expressed his frustration with the state of the impasse after McConnell chose to shut down the proposal.

"I don't know who to talk to, and I don't know what else to do," he said.

The shutdown, which entered its 20th day Thursday, will hit affected employees Friday when they miss their first paycheck. Trump said he plans to keep the shutdown going indefinitely as long as Congress refuses to fund his border wall.

Trump walked out of a meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats won't budge on the wall.

In response, the National Federation of Federal Workers is co-sponsoring a rally outside the White House Thursday. The AFL-CIO set a rally outside the White House for noon, and air traffic controllers will march at the Capitol.

"The president has a cavalier attitude because he has no idea what it's like to rely on a regular paycheck," federation spokesman Steve Lenkart said in a report by USA Today.

"More than 11,000 in Pennsylvania are struggling to keep their families in their homes, keep the lights on, and put food on the table. I demand that President Trump put aside his erratic demands for an expensive, unpopular, ineffective border wall and let our fellow citizens go back to work."

In Palm Beach County, Fla., members of the National Treasury Employers Union prepared their own rally Thursday. Union president Donna McGowan said some members might not be able to participate because the shutdown is forcing them to conserve gasoline.

Internal Revenue Service workers in Fresno, Calif., and Washington, D.C., are also planning rallies.

"[IRS employees] are in distress because payments are coming due their rent their house payment," National Treasury Employees Union member Jason Sisk told KFSN-TV.

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelson on Thursday also called for urgency in resolving the crisis.

The president, without proof, has previously said most federal workers are Democrats and that the party should feel pressure to get the government reopened. At the same time, he's also said most federal workers support his wall and the shutdown.

"President Trump has been loud and clear -- he doesn't care that hundreds of thousands of public servants aren't getting their paychecks because of his manufactured funding crisis," Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., said in a statement. He attended a rally Tuesday in Philadelphia with laid-off workers.

Trump traveled to the southern border in Texas on Thursday to highlight his push for a border wall. He was expected to visit the U.S. Border Patrol McAllen Station and the Rio Grande.

He cited border security as his reason for canceling his planned trip to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum later this month.

"Because of the Democrats intransigence on Border Security and the great importance of Safety for our Nation, I am respectfully cancelling my very important trip to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. My warmest regards and apologies to the @WEF!" he tweeted Thursday.

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