WASHINGTON — Unpaid days off for civilian defense workers would end this October under a measure approved by the U.S. House of Representatives this week.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) sponsored the amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill.
“These are hardworking American patriots who work hard to keep our nation secure. They are supporting our warfighters. They are doing essential work,” Lamborn said on the House floor Tuesday night.
The House approved Lamborn’s amendment by voice vote Tuesday and the Defense authorization bill Wednesday. If the amendment stays in the bill and the bill is signed into law, it would stop the furloughs of an estimated 680,000 civilian defense workers after September 30.
Civilian defense workers are required to take 11 days of unpaid leave this fiscal year. The furloughs are part of the 2 percent-across-the-board cuts to the annual federal budget from this March to 2021, a process known as sequestration.
Lamborn, who sits on the Armed Services and Veteran Affairs committees in the House, was a natural champion of the measure. His district in south central Colorado includes not only the Air Force Academy but also five military installations, including Fort Carson and Schriever Air Force Base.
Although the amendment drew no opposition, it received less than unanimous praise.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) a frequent critic of military spending, said he disagreed with the bill’s approach to the automatic round of budget cuts.
“I’m not for piecemeal solutions to sequestration … You know who’s going to be left behind, those who don’t have lobbyists — the weakest among us. Defense is not going to be left behind,” Miller said with a shrug of his large shoulders.
Lamborn shot back with a retort of his own.
“If you look at the big boys, they don’t include civilian defense workers. These are ordinary, hardworking Americans,” Lamborn said in an interview.
Lamborn’s amendment would cost more than $7 billion a year, but it requires that lawmakers find offsetting spending cuts in the defense budget. The measure will be considered by the Senate.
Sen. James Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he needs to examine the legislation before commenting on it.