“With the president’s signature today, we — as a nation — chose to properly honor dedicated federal employees who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country,” Kelley stated in a release.
NTEU had lobbied for the bill’s passage. The union points to OPM data showing that since 1992 almost 3,000 federal workers have been killed while performing their official duties.
“In a time when the work of federal employees is far too often taken for granted, it is a fitting and appropriate tribute to those who have lost their lives working on behalf of their fellow Americans,” Kelley said.
However, the bill’s passage wasn’t always assured.
First introduced in June by Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), the American Legion and some conservative blogs had denounced the measure, in part, because they argued it would have equated federal civilian service with military service, the Washington Post reported.
Critics also said the law was too vague and that the simple act of a flag being mailed to a family could turn into a much more expensive ceremony.
However, backers of the bill said the language was quite clear and a Congressional Budget Office score of the legislation indicated it would have “no significant impact on the federal budget.”
Despite the initial opposition, the bill was also strongly supported by Republicans as well as Democrats.
Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) applauded the new law.
“Over the years, many civilian federal employees have given their lives while serving their country, at home and abroad,” he sad in release. “Presenting the flag is a symbol of a grateful nation’s appreciation for the sacrifice of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty, and the loved ones they leave behind.”