Lawmakers fight for feds' pay

In a letter to President Bush, more than 80 members of Congress asked that federal employees receive the full pay raise for next year instead of the partial 3.1 percent raise proposed by the administration.

President Bush announced Nov. 29 that civilian employees would receive a 3.1 percent pay raise — a figure that does not include locality pay increases. Employees were expecting about a 4.1 percent increase, similar to what military employees will receive next year.

A "national emergency" has existed in this country since last year's Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the president said, and a full pay raise would affect the country's ability to fight the war on terrorism.

However, in their letter, lawmakers countered that no national emergency was taken into consideration when the president "supported additional tax cuts this year in Congress" or "signed the $82 billion farm bill into law in May."

"But when it comes to adequately compensating federal workers engaged in fighting the war on terrorism and other vital functions of government, you assert we must make cuts," they said.

The lawmakers also slammed the president's decision to award bonuses to top political appointees — a practice that had been halted under the Clinton administration.

"We object to cutting the pay of those who are playing an important role in our national security and daily functions of government, most of them middle-income Americans, while you do not believe in asking America's most wealthy citizens to make any sacrifice at all," they said.

In a press briefing with reporters Dec. 2, Ari Fleischer said President Bush's decision is "nothing new" and that presidents before him have proposed similar "alternative pay" plans.

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