House Moves to Repay U.S. DOT Workers Furloughed by Bunning Filibuster

The House voted today to compensate nearly 2,000 U.S. DOT workers who were forcibly furloughed last week when Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) mounted a five-day blockade of legislation extending federal transportation spending for the month of March.

art.bunning.gi.pngSen. Jim Bunning's (R-KY) one-man filibuster kept U.S. DOT workers off the job for two days. (Photo: CNN)
The repayment bill, passed without a recorded vote, would prevent the furloughed workers from getting a 20 percent salary cut in their next paychecks. The Senate must act on the bill before March 16 to prevent the cuts from occurring.

"When you are taking home $900 over a two-week period, a $300 cut can be devastating," House transport committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), the bill's sponsor, said in a speech before its approval. "These cuts would be difficult enough in good economic times. Amidst the current economic downturn, they would be particularly painful."

Bunning argued that the extension of existing transportation law, which came coupled with five weeks of stopgap funding for unemployment benefits, should be fully paid for -- despite his past support for similar unpaid extension measures. He ultimately relented after a tumult of media coverage began to give Democrats political momentum in their campaign against frequent Republican use of the filibuster.

The U.S. DOT compensation bill is fully paid for, Oberstar's office said in a statement, thanks to a shift in already-approved spending authority for the agency.