Some lawmakers seek to dilute pay freeze proposal

House members request annual review of federal pay

Federal employees facing a two-year salary freeze could get a respite if a group of lawmakers is able to persuade colleagues to limit this Congress's action to one year.

Several House members, mostly Democrats, have asked their colleagues to leave federal pay adjustments beyond 2011 to the next Congress, in an effort to head off  President Barack Obama’s proposal to freeze pay for all civilian federal employees for the next two years.

In a Dec. 6 letter to House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis), they requested that changes to federal pay be reviewed on annual basis. They said the next Congress would be better able to assess changes to federal pay beyond fiscal 2011 "in the context of a more comprehensive approach to deficit reduction."

Rep James Moran (D-Va.), one of the signers of the letter, said in a statement: "Unilaterally freezing pay for civil servants separate from a comprehensive, deficit reduction package unfairly asks federal employees to carry a burden that should be shared by all. This freeze strikes at the heart of pay parity, penalizing civilian federal employees in the Defense Department, CIA and other agencies who work side-by-side with our active duty service men and women overseas." 

The House members, from districts in or near Washington, D,C. or its suburbs, indicated in the letter that the Office of Management and Budget has already submitted legislative language to implement Obama's proposal.


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Along with Moran, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) signed the letter.

The Obama administration said its proposed two-year pay freeze would save $2 billion for the remainder of fiscal 2011, $28 billion over the next five years and more than $60 million over the next decade, according to OMB. OMB officials noted that the proposal would not affect step increases. However, labor groups have expressed concern that the proposal is likely to make federal workers feel like they are targets and could lower worker morale. This was echoed in the lawmakers’ letter.

"…We do not believe civil servants should be unfairly targeted outside of the context of a comprehensive approach to the federal budget simply because they carry out the work of the federal government," the letter stated.

Obama’s pay freeze proposal came only a couple of days before the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform released its report on ways to reduce the deficit. The debt commission report recommended a three-year federal pay freeze along with a 10 percent decrease in the federal workforce.

Although last week’s vote on the debt commission's report fell short of the number needed to send it to Congress, the report’s recommendations may influence legislation next year.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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