House Speaker Pelosi signs worker back pay bill amid shutdown

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (center) signs a bill that would provide back payments to furloughed federal employees on January 11, 2019.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signed legislation to ensure back pay for furloughed federal employees once the shutdown ends.

The signing came on Friday hours after the House of Representatives voted to restore funding for some federal government agencies that had been shuttered since Dec. 22.

The house voted 240-179 to restore funding for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“On the first day that some of our federal employees will miss their paycheck, Congress is saying and guaranteeing that workers will be paid not only for this shutdown, but God forbid if we have any future ones, that their pay will be guaranteed,” Pelosi said.

At one point, she ridiculed President Donald Trump, saying, “Let’s give him time to think it through. Think? Did I say think?”

Nearly 800,000 federal workers, who are affected by the government shutdown, missed their first paycheck of the year that would have gone out on Friday.

They have been forced to scale back spending, cancel trips, apply for unemployment benefits and take out loans to pay bills.

“Most of them are living from paycheck to paycheck and now they approach this day on Friday having moved from paycheck to no check,” Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings said in debate on the House floor.

Trump said Friday he might declare a national emergency to end the government shutdown, but not so fast.

During a White House event on border security, he called on lawmakers to provide him the $5.7 billion needed for his promised wall along the US border with Mexico.

“The easy solution is for me to call a national emergency. I could do that very quickly,” Trump said.

“I have the absolute right to do it. But I’m not going to do it so fast. Because this is something Congress should do,” he added.

President Trump speaks during a meeting on border security in the Cabinet Room of the White House January 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP) 

A national emergency would enable Trump to divert money from other projects to cover the costs of building the wall.

That could also prompt the president to sign bills that restore funding to agencies impacted by the shutdown.

Meanwhile, House Republicans, who represent congressional districts still recovering from hurricanes, said they were opposed to the president’s plan.

“Our district is still recovering from Hurricane Harvey,” Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, told ABC News. “I hope that they can get those [funds] from somewhere else.”

Rep. Buddy Carter also said Georgians were still recovering from Hurricane Michael, noting, “There’s a need for disaster relief. No question about it.”

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