By Michael Reynolds/Pool/Getty Images.
So far, despite all the hurried negotiations over the details of border-security funding, Congress seems to be in agreement that the government will not shut down again on Friday, and has agreed to backpay some 800,000 federal workers the salaries they missed during the previous 35-day shutdown. But when it comes to the federal contractors who also went unpaid during that period—up to 580,000 people, according to one estimate—it gets trickier. “I’ve been told the president won’t sign” anything that guarantees them backpay, Senator Roy Blunt told reporters on Wednesday. “I guess federal contractors are different in his view than federal employees.”
On the 2016 campaign trail, it was a well-known (but ultimately overlooked) fact that Trump routinely refused to pay contractors during his career as a businessman. But the idea of paying these contractors reportedly had bipartisan support, until Mitch McConnell shot it down. A legislative source told the Hill that the administrative cost alone to pay back the contractors would be as high as the backpay itself, and that previous shutdown negotiations did not include this provision. “That was not initially part of our deal,” Senator Richard Shelby explained. “I personally would rather keep it narrow in scope.”
Other Republicans, such as John Cornyn, seemed to take joy in turning contractor pain to political gain. “[Nancy] Pelosi and [Chuck] Schumer should have thought about this and other collateral damage when they initially refused to negotiate on border security, something they are apparently now willing to do,” he told NBC News. “Thousands of federal contractors have not been reimbursed from the 35-day shutdown,” Schumer said in response to these reports. “This issue is hanging in the balance. . . . It’s just not fair.”
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