U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson introduced legislation Friday that would provide funding to pay essential staff as the federal government shutdown over border security is set to become the longest in American history.
The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, would use unappropriated funds to pay the salaries of about 420,000 federal workers throughout several agencies who are currently forced to come to work without pay. Agencies include the Coast Guard and departments of Commerce, Homeland Security and Interior.
“The least a dysfunctional Washington, D.C., can do is pay the people we are requiring to work during this shutdown to keep our nation and our homeland safe and secure,” Johnson said in a statement.
President Trump and congressional Democrats have failed to reach an agreement on funding an extension of the U.S. border wall, prompting a partial government shutdown that has lasted three weeks.
Some furloughed federal workers missed their first paychecks Friday as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, who has blocked votes to reopen the government, returned home.
Trump in recent days has traveled to the southern border and threatened to declare a national emergency to secure billions to extend the wall. Democrats have rejected his demand for more than $5 billion for a border barrier.
Johnson, R-Oshkosh, who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, in media interviews this week expressed his support for the wall, calling Democrats hypocritical for opposing it while minimizing the issue of border security.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, voiced her opposition to the government shutdown and making Americans pay for the wall, instead endorsing “smart and cost-effective” border security.
The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a bill that would guarantee that back pay is provided to the more than 800,000 federal workers affected by the shutdown. Both workers who are forced to work without pay and those who are not currently working would be awarded back pay once funding becomes available.
When the House took up the bill Friday, Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, was one of just seven members of the 435 member chamber to oppose the bill. Grothman said he opposed awarding back pay to those who are not working.
He co-sponsored a bill that has not been taken up in the Democratic-controlled House that would provide immediate pay for federal employees forced to work.