Mick Mulvaney, the White House’s budget director and acting chief of staff, danced around a question Sunday on whether government-contracted employees would be reimbursed for wages they missed during the partial government shutdown.
Margaret Brennan, host of CBS’ “Face The Nation,” asked Mulvaney if and when both federal employees and government-contracted workers should expect to receive back pay for work they missed or continued to do without financial compensation during the 35-day shutdown.
“What about all of those contractors who don’t necessarily have job guarantees?” Brennan asked Mulvaney. “Are they going to be made full?”
But Mulvaney breezed past the plight of contractors in his response, noting that the roughly 800,000 federal employees stung by the shutdown would likely receive retroactive pay in the coming days.
“Uh, the contractors will depend on the contract and, um, let’s talk about the (government) employees for a second because I know a little bit more about that,” Muvlaney said.
“Some of them could be early this week,” he said of back pay for federal employees. “Some of them may be later this week. But we hope that by the end of this week all of the back pay will be made up. And, of course, the next payroll will go out on time.”
Though shutdowns are anxiety-ridden events for federal employees living paycheck to paycheck, they have almost always received back pay once the government reopened. But most government-contracted workers usually aren’t as lucky.
It’s unclear how many contracted workers ― employed in a range of occupations, including food services, janitorial, security and computer software development ― were impacted by the recent shutdown. Estimates range from hundreds of thousands to millions.
President Donald Trump and other high-ranking officials downplayed the shutdown’s effects on Americans, pointing out that federal employees would eventually receive back pay.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday said he didn’t “quite understand” why some workers needed to rely on food pantries during the shutdown ― the longest such closure in U.S. history ― when they could just take out loans until the government reopens and they receive their back pay.
The Trump administration’s tone-deaf statements also failed to acknowledge government-contracted workers who may never see the money they missed during the shutdown.
The president signed a bill on Jan. 16 that guarantees back pay for federal employees at “the earliest date possible” once the government reopens, but the legislation did not extend protections to contractors ― many of whom are low-income earners.
After vowing to veto a spending bill that would reopen federal agencies hit by the shutdown if it did not include $5.7 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, Trump caved to Democrats on Friday and signed a measure to keep the government open for three weeks.
He has vowed to continue his push for wall funding during this period and, if again stymied, unilaterally move forward with erecting the barrier by declaring it’s needed for national security reasons.
“If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency,” he said Friday.
Mulvaney on Sunday said he believes Trump is prepared to shut down the government again if his demands aren’t met.
“He’s willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border,” Mulvaney said. “He doesn’t want to shut the government down ― let’s make that very clear. He doesn’t want to declare” a national emergency in order to get it built.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have strongly spoken out against Trump’s suggestion that he would declare a national emergency to secure funds for his long-promised border wall, which he had vowed Mexico would pay to build.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told NBC’s” Meet The Press” on Sunday. “I think it would be a terrible idea. I hope he doesn’t do it. I don’t think it’s leverage either. … It’s just not a good precedent to set in terms of action. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want border security ― I do. I just think that’s the wrong way to achieve it.”