Alexander: Democrats Block Bill to Pay Federal Employees Forced to Work During Shutdown

Posted on January 24, 2019

WASHINGTON, January 24, 2019 — United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today spoke on the Senate floor in support of the Shutdown Fairness Act—legislation that was blocked by Senate Democrats—which would have ensured that federal employees forced to work during the shutdown can receive their paycheck.

“Today, Senate Republicans asked for consent to approve paying the over 400,000 workers who are being forced to work without pay during the shutdown. No republican objects to this idea. The Democratic leader does. That means the Democratic leader is saying to 53,000 TSA employees who make about $43,000 per year that he objects on behalf of the democratic side to paying them while they're forced to work,” Alexander said.

“Leader Schumer is saying to 54,000 Customs and Border Protection agents that he objects to paying them while they are forced to work. The republican side wants to pay the 42,000 Coast Guard members who are forced to work and aren't being paid. The Democratic leader says he objects to that. And to the 14,000 air traffic controllers, 16,000 Bureau of Prisons corrections officers, and 35,000 IRS employees who are being forced to work—the republicans are saying, ‘pay them.’ The Democratic Leader objects,” Alexander continued.

“I’m doing everything I can to reopen the government, and I voted for two bills today that would have done so, including President Trump’s compromise proposal that would not only open the government but also includes relief for ‘dreamers’, disaster relief, and additional funding for improved border security. A government shutdown should be as off limits to budget negotiations as chemical weapons are to warfare. In the meantime, this legislation would allow federal agencies that are impacted by the government shutdown to pay federal employees who continue to work,” Alexander concluded.

The Shutdown Fairness Act — legislation offered by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and cosponsored by Alexander — was blocked today by the Senate Democratic Leader.

The Shutdown Fairness Act would:

  • Authorizes federal agencies that are impacted by the government shutdown to pay federal employees who continue to work.
  • The bill would provide pay to federal employees who are working during the shutdown. These employees perform emergency work, or perform work involving the safety of human life or protection of property.
  • The bill would provide pay to the over 400,000 employees who are currently working from shutdown agencies and departments including Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation, Treasury, Forest Service, National Parks Service, and Securities Exchange Commission.



Lamar Alexander is the senior senator from Tennessee, and he serves as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. For his full biography, click here.