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Sen. Schumer calls on White House to expedite back pay for federal workers

During a news conference at his Manhattan office

During a news conference at his Manhattan office on Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer gives his support for a bipartisan bill to prevent future government shutdowns and calls on President Trump to expedite back pay for federal workers. Credit: Charles Eckert

Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday called on the Trump administration to speed up the distribution of back pay to more than 800,000 federal employees who were furloughed or worked without pay during the five-week shutdown.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) at a Manhattan news conference also joined the growing number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who have expressed support for legislation to prevent future shutdowns over policy impasses. 

"Now that the shutdown is over, we should roll up our sleeves and make sure it never happens again," said Schumer, the Senate Democratic Leader. 

His comments came as acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, making the Sunday show rounds, indicated President Donald Trump was prepared to force another shutdown if congressional leaders did not meet his demands for $5.7 billion in border wall funding by a Feb, 15 deadline.

Schumer said he also will support a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Mark Warner (D-Va.)  known as the "Stop Stupidity Act,"  which would automatically renew government funding to the same levels as the previous year if the president and Congress don't come to an agreement.

The latest shutdown — the longest in U.S. history — came as Trump threatened to veto any spending legislation that did not include the full amount he was seeking over a southern border wall. The shutdown dragged on for 35 days as congressional Democrats refused to budge on wall funding, and Senate Republicans refused to hold a vote on any temporary spending measures that would not provide Trump border wall money. The president caved on Friday amid mounting public pressure and signed a three-week spending bill on the condition that border wall negotiations will continue.

Schumer said many of the 800,000 employees impacted by the shutdown typically live paycheck-to-paycheck and are desperately awaiting the money.

"These federal workers, many with years of service to the Federal government, do their jobs with both a passion for public service and an apolitical mindset," Schumer wrote in a letter to Trump. "These folks deserve a solution that puts their back pay into their bank accounts as soon as possible, because to truly end the negative impacts of this shutdown, New Yorkers and Americans need their paychecks."

Mulvaney, who also leads the White House's Office of Management and Budget, told CBS's "Face the Nation" that some federal workers may get their back pay by the end of the week, while others may get it later. Schumer said the president should have a stricter timetable and speed up the process, even if it means working payroll employees overtime.

"Our goal is to get them back on their feet," Schumer said of the letter.

Schumer, citing an S&P Global Ratings report, said the shutdown has already cost the U.S. economy at least $6 billion, and warned the figure could go up.

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