House Dems Unveil Bill to Ease Shutdown Pains on Gov’t Workers

Unveiled by California's T.J. Cox, measure would force the Treasury to provide employees with zero percent APR loans of up to $6,000

Image Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images & Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Democrats released a bill on Thursday intended to ease the financial stress of federal workers who have been impacted by the ongoing government shutdown.

The Immediate Financial Relief for Federal Employees Act would provide federal loans with zero percent interest to government workers impacted by the current — or any future — partial government shutdown. Rep. T.J. Cox (D-Calif.) (shown above left) unveiled the bill surrounded by Democratic colleagues during a press conference on Capitol Hill.

“We were elected to do something for the American people and that’s exactly what we’re doing today,” Cox said.

“This is the first bill I’ve introduced as a member of Congress, and it’s safe to say this is not the first bill I wanted to introduce,” he added. “But because of the continued shutdown and [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell’s refusal to do his job, 800,000 federal workers are suffering.”

Related: Trump Walks Out of Gov’t Shutdown Meeting with Dems

The bill’s goal — if it becomes law — is to provide immediate relief to 800,000 federal employees because of the government shutdown. The U.S. Treasury would be required to provide those employees impacted by government shutdowns a zero percent APR loan of up to $6,000.

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The bill says the loan would have no fees and the employees would accrue no interest. The loans would also not require a credit check.

Whatever amount of money the federal employee borrows would be automatically deducted once the government reopens and normal pay resumes.

The partial government shutdown began in late December over a dispute about border security funding. President Donald Trump has threatened to veto spending bills until he gets $5.7 billion needed for a border security wall.

Democratic leaders have opposed providing any funding for the wall. The stalemate led both sides to the shutdown on December 22.

Without border wall funding, the Democrats are unlikely to get very far in their attempts to reopen the government.

McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he will not bring up any more spending bills the president wouldn’t sign. But the federal worker relief bill doesn’t directly relate to spending. Trump has shown a willingness to sign bills related to the shutdown that don’t deal with spending, such as a recent bill to provide federal workers with back pay.

“Just last week the Senate and the House passed a bipartisan bill, which was signed into law last night,” Cox said Thursday. “This was an important first step, but it isn’t enough.”

Trump and congressional leaders of both parties have continued their discussions. But despite the regular meetings, the two sides have been unable to overcome the impasse so far. Trump repeatedly has noted his commitment to funding the border wall,

Related: Border Patrol Union Makes the Case for Trump’s Wall

Federal workers impacted by past government shutdowns typically have been paid once the government reopens. Those having to work without compensation are guaranteed their back pay once the shutdown ends. Lawmakers usually vote to provide back pay to furloughed workers during shutdowns.

House Democrats have made a few attempts to end the shutdown. They passed two bills intended to fund most of the government while leaving room to debate border security. They later announced a plan to pass four separate appropriations bills.

But without border wall funding, they are unlikely to get very far.

The bill currently has 70 co-sponsors — and they’re mostly Democrats. Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Rep. David Trone (D-Md.), Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.), and Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) all joined Cox during the announcement of the bill on Thursday.

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