House passes its own CR with border funding, setting up Friday shutdown showdown

Updated Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018 at 8:15 p.m.

The House passed its own version of a short-term continuing resolution, with $5 billion in funding for the southern border, that would that would keep all of government open through Feb. 8.

The measure also includes more than $7 billion in disaster relief aid.

The Senate is expected to take up the CR Friday around noon. But House Democrats have repeatedly said the measure doesn’t have a chance in the opposing chamber, setting up a showdown with lawmakers and the White House with just hours until Friday’s midnight partial shutdown deadline.

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The Senate on Friday may send a CR back to the House with no border wall funding, creating even more uncertainty and heightening the chance of partial government shutdown at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.

Reps. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.) have already introduced the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, which would guarantee back pay for federal employees during a potential partial shutdown.

The bill has 66 cosponsors.

“We do not want a government shutdown, but if it comes our bill would protect federal workers from the worst of the consequences,” Beyer said in a statement. “This legislation is designed to shield civil servants, who need to support their families, from the disastrous effects of failure to agree on a measure to fund the government. We hope it will not be needed, but time is running out and the current outlook is not good.”

The Senate passed its own continuing resolution by voice vote late Wednesday night. Its version didn’t contain any additional amendments or policy riders, including a federal pay raise for civilian employees next year.

A few Senate Democrats had tried to attach a 1.9 percent pay raise to the CR, but ultimately, it wasn’t included. Maryland Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen said Wednesday they wanted to resolve the issue and guarantee civilian employees would a get raise by Jan. 1, 2019.

But Congress has few chances left at this point to override President Donald Trump on the issue of pay. Trump back in August announced his intention to freeze pay for civilian workers. If Congress can’t agree on a raise, the president’s planned freeze would move forward.

The President, of course, could change his mind, but Cardin said he wasn’t optimistic Trump would reverse course on his own. The President must issue an executive order by the end of the year to finalize his decision on pay for civilian employees. This typically comes toward the end of December near the Christmas holiday.

Federal employee organizations, meanwhile, are pushing for lawmakers to revisit the issue in the new year, which is a possibility.

The National Treasury Employees Union said there was bipartisan support for a federal pay raise in 2019.

“If necessary, NTEU will build on the current momentum in the 116th Congress for a retroactive pay increase when legislators finish the 2019 appropriations bills early next year,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said in a statement.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) Association also expressed their disappointment that a pay raise wasn’t included a short-term spending deal.

“While we will continue to urge Congress to authorize a pay raise in February, delaying implementation of the raise lowers overall pay for the year, and will undermine confidence in the government’s ability to maintain competitive pay in the future,” NARFE National President Ken Thomas said.

Cardin and his staff are discussing what legislative options members have to consider a retroactive pay raise in January or February, a spokeswoman for the Maryland senator told Federal News Network Thursday.

“After years of pay freezes and zero cost of living adjustments, federal workers deserve to be recognized for their efforts and dedication,” Cardin said Thursday in a statement. “I will work with my colleagues to determine how we can best make up the difference and ensure federal workers have appropriate pay and the tools they need to succeed.”

The Senate already passed a 1.9 percent pay raise for civilian employees in 2019 earlier this year. The House, however, has not.

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