Growing Number of Dems Buck Pelosi on Federal Worker Pay

13 Democrats side with GOP to ensure federal workers receive first paycheck of the year

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
January 24, 2019

A growing number of House Democrats are bucking Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) in support of GOP efforts to ensure federal workers get paid during the ongoing government shutdown.

House Republicans introduced a motion on Thursday to supplant Pelosi's proposal to reopen the government, offering in its place legislation to fund federal employee salaries until a permanent solution could be forged.

Although it ultimately failed by a narrow margin of 214 to 200, the motion picked up more support from moderate and freshman Democrats than previous attempts. In total, 13 members of the House majority crossed the aisle to vote with their Republican colleagues. A similar motion from last week enticed the support of only 6 Democrats, while a nearly identical initiative on Wednesday garnered the backing of 10 Democrats.

The growing defections have all come from Democrats who have been openly critical of Pelosi's negotiating style. The vote, although unsuccessful, seems to signal Democrats are unsupportive of Pelosi's recalcitrant opposition to any deal that includes funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Freshman representative Ben McAdams (Utah), who has expressed support for Democrats compromising with the president on some form of "barrier construction," voted for the motion on Wednesday and Thursday, despite opposing it initially.

Alyson Heyrend, McAdams's communications director, told the Free Beacon the congressman felt compelled to support the motion as the "shutdown is now over a month-long" and shows no sign of ending.

"Congressman McAdams is looking for bipartisan solutions that will end the shutdown, pay federal employees and to that end, he joined a number of his fellow Democrats in crossing the aisle to find common ground," Heyrend said over email.

More than 800,000 federal workers have already missed their first paycheck of the year, as the shutdown has stretched into the longest in history. If no resolution is reached soon, or if Congress fails to act otherwise, employees will miss their second paychecks scheduled for Friday. Even though they will receive pay retroactively once the government reopens, the shutdown has impacted morale among federal workers. The hardest hit appear to be the 420,000 employees categorized as essential personnel and therefore forced to work throughout the impasse.

Freshman representative Abigail Spanberger (D., Va.), who counts federal employees among her constituents, also voted for the motion on Thursday even though she opposed it twice previously.

"I voted to push for a bipartisan compromise in order to get a measure swiftly to the Senate ... to make sure dedicated federal workers are promptly paid," Spanberger told the Free Beacon. "I'll continue to support any bill that has a realistic chance of moving to the Senate and would make sure federal employees get paid, and I’ll keep fighting to end this shutdown."

The congresswoman, who refused to support Pelosi for speaker, signed onto a letter earlier this week urging the Democratic leadership to "guarantee a vote" on border wall funding in exchange for a promise by the president to reopen the government beforehand.

A spokeswoman for minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) told the Free Beacon the growing defections indicate not everyone in the Democratic majority was comfortable with the impact the standoff was having on the federal workforce.

"House Republicans gave Democrats three opportunities to get federal workers their paychecks and come to the table to negotiate an end to the shutdown," said the spokeswoman. "Unfortunately each time the majority of Democrats said ‘no.’ Thankfully some had the political courage to [break with] leadership and vote to pay federal employees."

"We hope more Democrats follow that example," she added.