WASHINGTON - Maryland lawmakers have introduced resolutions to assure federal workers of payment during the government shutdown that ran from Saturday through Monday.
The measures would assure payment for weekend-duty workers sent home because of the shutdown and for all federal workers entitled to Columbus Day holiday pay.
President Bush shut down the government Saturday when he vetoed a funding measure, called a continuing resolution, in response to Congress' failure to pass a satisfactory budget plan. He approved a subsequent continuing resolution and the government reopened Tuesday.
Federal personnel officials were uncertain whether the continuing resolution signed by Bush guaranteed pay for affected workers.
"The best information is it's unclear if the continuing resolution is going to be retroactive," Sharon Wells, spokeswoman for the Office of Personnel Management, said yesterday.
Aides to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., said legislative action was needed to protect the workers. She introduced a pay resolution in the Senate yesterday, supported by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., and other senators, while Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-5th, introduced one in the House.
Wells said there's time for Congress to act to prevent workers from being shortchanged in their next paychecks, which are issued every two weeks.
In past instances in which the government shut down and workers were briefly furloughed, Congress compensated them. The amount of workers' pay at stake is enormous - $285 million in Columbus Day pay alone, according to an estimate from Mikulski's office.
"The hard-working men and women who keep the government functioning should not have to pay for our inability to reach a budget agreement," Mikulski told the Senate.
Federal employees' organizations expressed some confusion over the status of weekend and holiday pay and demabded prompt action.
"We feel very strongly of course they should have been paid," said Diane Witiak, spokeswoman for the American Federation of Government Employees. "Federal workers should not pay the price for Congress' and the administration's inability to reach a compromise."