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Just How Dysfunctional is the United States Congress? IFPTE Adds Perspective by Outlining Just How Far Off Congress is From Passing Spending Bills Through the Normal Process

By Matt Biggs, IFPTE Legislative Director

The government shutdown ended this week after three days, leaving thousands of furloughed IFPTE members concerned about whether or not they would lose pay due to fault of their own. Fortunately, IFPTE and other labor organizations worked closely with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to pass legislation ensuring that all furloughed workers were paid for any time they missed from work. In updating the locals on the status of the pay legislation, the IFPTE legislative department also added a bit of perspective so locals could consider exactly how far the Congress is from doing their most fundamental job fund the government. Below is the last IFPTE update on the government shutdown update, followed by press stories highlighting IFPTE locals across the country.

From: Matt Biggs
Sent: Tuesday, January 23, 2018 3:07 PM
Subject: RE: Latest on the shutdown, fed employee pay

To All IFPTE Federal Locals:

By now most of you are hopefully back at work after the CR passed the Senate and House, and was signed by the President yesterday. This CR keeps the government open through February 8th. If you might be thinking that this is no way to run the government, you would be correct. After all, the most fundamental job of the United States Congress is to fund government agencies on an annual basis, but that is becoming increasingly challenging, unfortunately.

Given that we have no idea how this will play out again before February 8th, I thought it was worth adding some perspective as to how dysfunctional this situation has become by quickly reminding you of how the appropriations process is actually SUPPOSED to work:

The fiscal year (FY) runs from October 1st through September 30th, so in an ideal world Congress would pass, and the President would sign the funding bills before September 30th. There are actually twelve appropriations bills to fund federal government agencies. Both the Senate and House have respective appropriations committees and twelve subcommittees that are tasked with drafting and considering their versions of the twelve bills. These are different bills in both the Senate and House, but once each chamber approves their respective bills through subcommittee, committee and by the full body, the House and Senate appoint conferees (conferees are normally a bipartisan makeup of the more senior lawmakers on the approps committee and subcommittees) who are then tasked with reconciling each appropriations bill (the reconciled bill is called a conference report). The single bill that results from this process moves on to consideration in each chamber through a straight up or down vote, with no amendments and no ability to filibuster. After the conference report passes in each chamber, it is sent on to the President for signature. If the twelve bills are not completed and signed by September 30th, and absent a CR to extend funding until the bills can be completed, all of the agencies covered by any unpassed appropriations measures will shut down. Sadly the best case scenario for spending bills over the last many years is that all or some of the twelve get bundled together into a larger Omnibus package and passed as a single bill. However, this Congress can't even pass an Omnibus at FY18 levels, so they are simply passing CRs at FY17 levels, which is obviously not good for agencies, not good for workers, and certainly not good for the public. Hard to tell at this point what will happen with all of this before the 8th, but I thought it was important to let you all know that Congress isn't even close to achieving passage of these funding measures through the normal appropriating process.

All that said, I do want to update all of the locals that with the help of a strong group of bipartisan lawmakers, back pay for furloughed federal employees was achieved as a part of the CR. There was also some language in the bill that seemed to suggest that in the event of another shutdown in 2018 that workers and the military would be paid. However, I have heard from some other federal unions whose legislative counsels looked at the language and have questions as to whether or not all federal workers are actually covered for the potential future shutdown part of this. If it is not covered and there is a another shutdown, IFPTE will obviously work hard on the back pay issue again. For right now though, pay for the current shutdown is definitely covered.

There were several lawmakers who worked on the pay issue that I would like to mention here. First, I want to commend Senator Cardin (D,MD), who authored the back pay bill and led the fight in the Senate. Both he and Sen. Brian Schatz (D, HI) brought the back pay bill to the Senate floor during the shutdown seeking passage independent of the CR, but Majority Leader McConnell blocked those efforts, unfortunately. Sens. Van Hollen (D, MD) and Susan Collins (R,ME) also worked very hard to ensure that the back pay language ultimately made it into the final CR. On the House side, Rep. Don Beyer (D, VA) and Rob Wittman (R, VA) jointly sponsored the House back pay bill, and worked together with Reps. Comstock (R, VA), Connolly (D, VA), Cummings (D, MD), Hoyer (D, MD), Ruppersberger (D, MD), Brown (D, MD), Hanabusa (D, HI) and Raskin (D, MD), who all also pushed very hard for the pay language. Others, like Reps. Kilmer (D, WA), Jones (R. NC), and Holmes-Norton (D, DC) were strongly supportive as well. All of these lawmakers deserve credit for their efforts.

Lastly, and in addition to the press links that I sent out yesterday regarding Local 121, below are several more links to more press coverage for Locals 121 and Local 4:

I hope this information proves helpful. Please feel free to share with your respective membership.

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