Donald Trump is blocking a measure that would give federal contractors backpay that they missed out on during the government shutdown according to a report from Vanity Fair. Lawmakers are scrambling to come up with a plan that would keep the government open before the February 15 deadline, but while Democrats are battling to give workers their missed salary, the president is unwilling to sign anything that would guarantee backpay.
When the government shut down for 35 days in late December 2018 and early January 2019, it left 800,000 federal workers without a paycheck. Trump and lawmakers assured those employees that they would receive payment for their work after the government was re-opened. But for the 580,000 contract employees who didn’t receive their paychecks, they may be out of luck.
Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, told reporters on Wednesday that the president wouldn’t go for any plan that involves paying contractors.
“I’ve been told the president won’t sign that,” he said.
“I guess federal contractors are different in his view than federal employees.”
During past government shutdowns, contractors have not been paid for their work, so it isn’t without precedent. But Democrats in the House and Senate are pushing to pay these workers as part of the bipartisan deal to keep the government open.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, said that he believes that resolving the issue is a matter of logistics, according to NBC.
“I understand it’s somewhat complicated, but I think it’s on the negotiators’ radar screen, and hopefully they’ll figure a way to work through it,” he said.
“I just don’t think it’s ever been done before, so figuring out duration of contracts — it sounds like it’s the timing issues and all that.”
Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen said that he hoped the rumor that Trump wouldn’t sign anything that paid contractors was untrue.
I certainly hope this isn’t true. It would be cruel and unnecessary to block back pay for federal contract workers who lost more than a month of wages and are still behind on bills due to President Trump’s shutdown. Many of them work low-wage jobs and live paycheck-to-paycheck. https://t.co/sYcKmvkg5Z— Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) February 13, 2019
Federal contractors are people who work for third parties that are paid by the government for their work. This includes IT workers, cafeteria workers, security guards, and developers In the past, contractors simply had to eat the lost wages. Other third-party companies paid workers during the shutdown, according to Vox. But Senator Tina Smith, a Democrat from Minnesota, introduced a bill that would pay contractors. Democrats are trying to make this bill a part of the final spending package, but Republicans are pushing back on the move.
“This issue is hanging in the balance…. It’s just not fair,” Chuck Schumer said, according to a tweet from MSNBC’s Kyle Griffin.
Should federal contract employees receive back pay for wages lost during the #shutdown?— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) February 13, 2019
"There were a lot of people harmed by [the shutdown] and you want to do everything you can to make them whole," @SenJohnThune says. "I would include government contractors in that group." pic.twitter.com/Qpp0Vn7gKY