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Furloughed Transportation Workers Receive Back Pay

Alyssa Rosenberg | Government Executive

April 19, 2010

Nearly two months after they were furloughed because of a temporary expiration of the Highway Trust Fund, 2,000 Transportation Department workers will receive back pay for the two days of missed.

“I have seen nothing but dedicated, hardworking folks doing the work of the American people,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote on his blog. “It was unfortunate that they had to pay the price for a legislative impasse.”

The provision authorizing the repayments, which the Congressional Budget Office priced at $1 million, passed on Thursday night on a 59 to 38 vote in the Senate, and a 289 to 112 House vote. It was part of a larger legislative package that included an extension of unemployment benefits, a continuation of Medicare payments to doctors, and an extension of the COBRA insurance program.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., sponsored legislation to pay the furloughed employees for the missed work.

“Members of Congress should not play politics with the lives of federal workers,” he said.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., delayed Connolly’s bill because of the funding mechanism. Connolly’s legislation would have repaid the furloughed workers with Transportation funds, because their salaries already had been appropriated, and were held up by the delay on the Highway Trust Fund. Coburn said they should be paid out of Congress’s operating budget to punish legislators for moving slowly on the Trust Fund’s extension and treating foreseeable costs as emergency spending.

Connolly’s bill passed as a stand-alone piece of legislation, and then was attached to the larger benefits package in March. But a partisan stalemate stalled the bill before the two-week Easter recess.

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