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US Congress mulls backpay for furloughed staff

04 October 2013, 14:44

Washington - Furlough days for thousands of employees ordered off the job in the ongoing US government shutdown may turn into paid leave if Congress passes legislation on Friday that retroactively pays lost wages.

The measures were considered just as a dramatic car chase unfolded on Thursday in Washington in which US Capitol Police - who are working during the shutdown but without pay until the budget crisis is resolved - helped stop the suspect.

The incident shined a glaring spotlight on those federal employees working without pay while lawmakers wrangle over ending the shutdown, which enters its fourth day on Friday.

Members of the House of Representatives and Senate filed bills that would ensure all federal employees receive retroactive pay for the duration of the workstop.

"They deserve their pay, not financial punishment," House Democrat James Moran said in a statement.

The measure is rooted in the last government shutdown, from December 1995 into January 1996.

Congress ultimately passed legislation that assured that the 800 000 federal employees who were furloughed for three weeks were paid in full when government re-opened.

This week's bill is one of several emergency measures that the Republican-led House could consider as early as Friday to fund government piece by piece as Washington battles over setting spending levels.

President Barack Obama and his Democrats insist that Congress quickly pass a stopgap spending bill that re-opens the entirety of government before any haggling begins over a long-term budget.

The leader of the Senate, Democrat Harry Reid, has insisted that introducing piecemeal bills is aimed at ultimately defunding the health care law.

Republicans for weeks have sought to make passage of any government funding bill contingent on dismantling so-called "Obamacare".

Moran is from Virginia and Senator Ben Cardin, who filed the companion bill in the Senate, is from Maryland, two states bordering the US capitol that are home to thousands of federal employees.

The House passed three mini-funding measures on Wednesday that would re-open the country's national parks, secure funding for the District of Columbia, and keep key health research and life-saving treatments up and running.

On Thursday the House approved bills that protect veterans and the National Guard.



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