Word emerged earlier this week that Congressional negotiators had come to a tentative agreement to fund the government and ensure we avoid another government shutdown.
Donald Trump had signaled he would likely reluctantly sign the agreement, even though it didn't have the $5.7 billion in wall funding, “barring any drafting surprises or last-minute additions by Democrats,” officials close to Trump told NBC News. The president said he would be “looking for landmines" in the final draft of the legislation.
But now there appears to be yet another thing that could prevent Trump from supporting a deal: Democrats' proposed back pay for federal contractors.
As Senator Roy Blunt reportedly told reporters:
“I’ve been told the president won’t sign that."
On including back pay for federal contractors in the spending deal, Blunt tells reporters: “I’ve been told the president won’t sign that.”— Seung Min Kim (@Seung Min Kim) 1550084106.0
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said Wednesday that “35 days without pay is a really long time to go without pay for people living paycheck to paycheck.”
But as Blunt continued, “I guess federal contractors are different in his view than federal employees."
As for federal contractor back pay, “We are working on that," Hoyer said. "Whether or not we accomplish that — I hope we will, but that has not been done at this point."
Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) fired back on Twitter:
I certainly hope this isn’t true. It would be cruel and unnecessary to block back pay for federal contract workers… https://t.co/eMGLYJiDCK— Chris Van Hollen (@Chris Van Hollen) 1550087127.0
To which Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) replied:
Ms. Pelosi and Sen. Schumer should have thought about this and other collateral damage when they initially refused… https://t.co/KWe33UfHZ1— Senator John Cornyn (@Senator John Cornyn) 1550087264.0
John, we both know that the shutdown happened because the President walked away from Mr. McConnell's bipartisan fun… https://t.co/znjPtykQsW— Chris Van Hollen (@Chris Van Hollen) 1550093986.0
People agreed with Van Hollen and were not surprised Trump was opposing such a measure.
@seungminkim Grifters gonna grift...— StuckinIL (@StuckinIL) 1550085076.0
@seungminkim Can we add this to his list of not paying contractors history?— DLBIININJA/ Logan from Pabst (@DLBIININJA/ Logan from Pabst) 1550088817.0
@seungminkim Shocker since Trump has a long and storied history of refusing to pay for work that's already been done. #TrumpResign— Eileen Connelly (@Eileen Connelly) 1550086522.0
Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) tried to explain Trump's rationale.
“I understand it’s somewhat complicated, but I think it’s on the negotiators' radar screen, and hopefully they’ll figure a way to work through it. I just don’t think it’s ever been done before, so figuring out duration of contracts — it sounds like it’s the timing issues and all that.”
Thune is hopeful, however, that a deal can be reached to “make sure federal contractors are taken care of.”
One administration official told ABC News that guaranteeing back pay to contractors who, like federal workers, went more than a month without a paycheck during the most recent shutdown, would be a logistical nightmare.
“It’s projected that the federal administrative expense to implement what’s required under the bill could be as high as the actual payouts to contractors,” the unnamed official said. “Even with detailed guidance, the risk of improper payment, overpayment, and fraud, waste and abuse is likely to be significant.”
Democrats and even some Republicans in the Senate disagree.
Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) on Tuesday urged Americans to demand that Congress do the right thing and protect federal contractors.
"After the last federal shutdown, thousands of federal contract employees, many of them in low-wage jobs, aren't getting their back pay and I think that's wrong," Smith said. "We're trying to fix that right now and there's a budget bill that will come to the Senate floor on February 15th. So will you raise your voice and will you speak out to make sure that these federal contract employees, who have never gotten their back pay before, can get it now by passing this bill."
There are thousands of federal contract workers who have yet to receive back pay from the shutdown. Will you join m… https://t.co/UPVV9oA8YG— Tina Smith (@Tina Smith) 1550020305.0
Oh, people are speaking out, alright.
@seungminkim The ones who were really screwed.— Vote Dem for the Planet (@Vote Dem for the Planet) 1550104568.0
@seungminkim Before folks think these are all white collar pros who take vissisitudes like this into account workin… https://t.co/GywngHduzL— James' House (@James' House) 1550085770.0
@seungminkim So, Republican Senators should insist. After all it is Trump who caused federal contractors to go unpa… https://t.co/LLVLzIukQs— Inez Jessop (@Inez Jessop) 1550089991.0
@ChrisVanHollen Didn't the shutdown happened because Trump refused to sign the deal that had already gone thru Cong… https://t.co/ymZyVd4jCz— Aynex Mercado (@Aynex Mercado) 1550094630.0
@ChrisVanHollen Call him out for being purposefully disrespectful to Pelosi— Ryan ⚜️ (@Ryan ⚜️) 1550094345.0
@ChrisVanHollen Thank you Senator VanHollen. The truth matters! Words matter! Compromise is key!— BethCK7 (@BethCK7) 1550100972.0
@ChrisVanHollen Can you also remind Senator Cornyn that he should not use Americans has tools of punishment and he… https://t.co/jVSwXqk8YI— JLD (@JLD) 1550116436.0
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) told reporters that she does not understand why Trump would deny federal contractors their pay, NBC noted.
Looks like Trump really is running the country the same way he ran his businesses.