The U.S. House of Representatives voted last week for the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019, a measure that was written with an eye toward ensuring that federal workers who are not getting paychecks during President Trump’s government shutdown would eventually be compensated.
A total of 411 House Democrats and Republicans voted “yes,” and rightly so. As House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings said, “Regardless of what members think about the causes of this shutdown, every single one of us should agree that hardworking federal employees should not be held hostage to politics as a result.”
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, the town of Vermont Democrat who has compared the president’s behavior during the shutdown with that of “a spoiled child,” was a leading supporter of the back-pay measure. Wisconsin Democrats Gwen Moore and Ron Kind also voted “yes,” as did Republicans Bryan Steil, Mike Gallagher and Sean Duffy.
But U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, joined six other right-wing House Republicans in voting “no.”
Grothman’s “explanation”? He doesn’t want “to give back pay to all federal employees, both those who work and those who don’t, during this government shutdown and all future shutdowns.”
The problem with Grothman’s “logic” is that the federal employees whose lives have been turned upside down by the shutdown are in different circumstances. Roughly 420,000 of them are working without pay in positions deemed “essential.” Another 380,000 of them are furloughed, in some cases because entire offices, facilities or stations are not operating.
Yet they are all federal employees who are prepared to do their jobs. Their circumstances have been complicated not by their own actions but by those of President Trump – who announced last month, “If we don’t get what we want … I am proud to shut down the government.”
The problem is not with the federal workers. The problem is with Donald Trump.
Yet Grothman would punish loyal federal employees who happen to have been furloughed rather than hold Trump to account for creating the shutdown mess — and perpetuating it when Democrats and Republicans in Congress have already shown that they are more than ready to settle their differences.
Glenn Grothman’s loyalties are clear. He is ready to harm 380,000 loyal federal employees who are ready and willing to work rather than demand accountability from the one federal employee who refuses to do his job.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and @NicholsUprising.
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