Workforce

Departing House takes one last shot at federal pay

Rep. Darrell Issa

The federal workforce should not get automatic pay increases when the American people as a whole are not, argues Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

Hours before the highly publicized vote on the fiscal cliff, the House passed another measure on Jan. 1 that would have kept federal employees’ pay frozen.  Lawmakers backed the Congressional Pay Freeze and Fiscal Responsibility Act (H.R. 6726), which would prohibit a 2013 pay adjustment for federal employees and members of Congress, as called for by President Obama in a Dec. 27 executive order. The measure passed 287 to 129.

The increases are safe for now, at least, as the Senate adjourned on Jan. 2 without taking up the measure.  The 113th Congress convenes on Jan. 3, which means new legislation would have to be introduced to override Obama's executive order.  But given  the continued efforts by several legislators to keep federal pay frozen, another attempt in 2013 is hardly out of the question. 

The pending pay raise could cost taxpayers $11 billion over the next decade, according to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

In the debate over H.R. 6726 on Jan. 1, Issa stressed that it would not stop step increases, merit increases or many other routine ways federal employees can increase their pay.  “But it will say that, at this time, when the American people are not getting automatic cost-of-living increases, neither should the federal workforce,” he said.

However, many House Democrats opposed the measure, saying government employees have done their part in saving the government money.

“Federal workers not only have borne a disproportionate share of the cost, they’ve virtually borne the only share of the cost,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said.

And for what it's worth, members of Congress have already denied themselves a cost of living adjustment for 2013. The American Taxpayer Relief Act, better known as the bill that averted the fiscal cliff and which passed Congress Jan. 1, stops any increases for the lawmakers.

About the Author

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

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