Bill with pay freeze extension passes House

The House passed legislation May 31 by a wide margin that would essentially freeze pay for a number of federal employees for the third year in a row.

The $71.7 billion Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 5854) passed 402 to 12.

The bill would provide funding for the military with the infrastructure needed to house, train, and equip military personnel. It would provide for the quality of life of the troops and their families, while maintaining the military base structure. It also funds veterans’ benefits and veteran services benefits.

“This bill recognizes the service of our nation’s troops and veterans by providing for the programs, services, and benefits that they need and have earned,” Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, said in a statement after the bill’s passage.

Culberson added that the legislation helps to control spending to hold the line on the nation’s deficits and debt.

However, the pay provisions in the bill haven’t set well with the White House. While the bill does not specifically refer to the administration's two-year pay freeze, it specifies reductions to funds available for salaries that will have the effective of extending that freeze for VA and civilian Defense Department employees, according to a statement from the Office of Management and Budget.

On May 30, the Obama administration threatened a possible veto of the bill, in part because of the civilian pay freeze. Administration officials encouraged Congress to support their proposed 0.5 percent pay raise. In a statement on the bill, they wrote a permanent pay freeze is neither sustainable nor desirable.

A pay freeze has been in effect since 2011.

Federal employee advocates aren’t pleased either with the House’s approach to control spending.

“It is fundamentally wrong for federal employees to be required, yet again, to serve as the automated teller machine for the nation. Enough is enough,” the American Federation for Government Employees’s legislative and political director Beth Moten wrote in a letter May 31.

The appropriations bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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