Congress Approves Repayment for U.S. DOT Workers Furloughed by Bunning

After a six-week delay, Congress last night agreed to repay U.S. DOT employees for the two days of work they missed when Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) filibustered an extension of the 2005 transportation law, forcing a temporary shutdown of much of the federal agency's business.

art.bunning.gi.pngSen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) (Photo: CNN)

The repayment language was attached to a larger measure that temporarily extended unemployment benefits, which President Obama quickly signed into law this morning.

The House had approved a stand-alone bill compensating the U.S. DOT workers last month, but Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) held it up in a bid to force Congress to pay the estimated $1 million cost out of its own accounts, rather than using funds already appropriated to the agency.

Nearly 2,000 employees were held off the job at the U.S. DOT while Senate leaders navigated Bunning's blockade, which stemmed from his insistence on paying for a separate unemployment benefits extension that was attached to the transportation measure. The transportation law was ultimately extended retroactively, and later until 2011 under a jobs bill that President Obama signed last month.

“Restoring the lost pay is the right thing to do," House transport committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), sponsor of the repayment measure, said in a statement.