Though Congress managed in the early hours of Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, to pass a two-year budget deal ensuring government funding through 2019, federal employee unions were critical of the fact that it took another government shutdown to get there.
“Every American should be outraged. A second government shutdown in as many weeks is not the folly of one member of Congress, one political party, or one caucus; it is the result of a succession of failures to uphold their duty to all Americans,” said American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., an outspoken deficit hawk, delayed voting on the bipartisan budget deal until past midnight on Thursday evening, due in large part to the deal’s increase on spending caps for the government.
The resulting shutdown lasted approximately nine hours, but was long enough to prove damaging to federal employees, according to National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon.
“Thursday night and Friday morning were nerve-wracking for federal employees around the country. Any government shutdown, no matter how brief or what time of night, is disruptive,” Reardon said. “Federal employees and the taxpayers they serve deserve better.”
Though the budget bill eventually passed and was signed into law early Friday morning, federal employees and agencies are not entirely out of danger yet.
House and Senate appropriations committees will have to work out omnibus spending bills by March 23, 2018, when the stopgap spending measures included in the bill expire.
“While we ended up with the framework for longer-term funding of the government, Americans and federal employees are still being held hostage by short-term funding. Only funding the government until March 22 means the federal workforce and the critical services they provide are still in a holding pattern,” said Cox.
“This inability to come to a funding solution takes hold in detrimental ways: compromising public trust in our Constitutional institutions and instilling the impression that our government is an acceptable afterthought — they’re not. Federal workers keep our country running. They keep our skies safe and regulate and inspect our food, air and water. It’s time every citizen of this country holds their members of Congress accountable.”
Should omnibus spending be resolved in time, the two-year budget includes some positives for federal employees, namely, a lack of cuts in pay and benefits, which are often used to offset deficit spending.
“After federal employees contributed more than $120 billion in lost pay and benefits over the last several years, NARFE members have been diligent in sounding the drumbeat that federal employees’ and retirees’ earned benefits are not a piggy bank. Congress heeded their call, and no cuts to federal pay and benefits are included in the budget deal,” said National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association National President Richard Thissen.
The bill also provides relief from the possibility of a 2019 shutdown and the short-term continuing resolutions that have become Congress’s budgetary crutch for the past few decades.
“Congress can now get to work properly funding agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year and the next, instead of being mired in persistent threats of government shutdowns and the wasteful reliance on short-term continuing resolutions,” Reardon said.