Senate nixes pay hike for feds in funding bill

By Orhan Cam Royalty-free stock photo ID: 546416560 United States Capitol Building in Washington DC USA 

Congress is looking to pass a full slate of appropriations bills for fiscal year 2021 instead of a stopgap continuing resolution by Dec. 11, when the current temporary funding bill expires.

Included in the Senate funding package released today is a pay freeze for federal employees for next year.

The Trump administration had proposed a 1% increase for federal civilian employees for 2021 in its February budget request. The House-passed Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill essentially comported with that request.

Even a 1% pay increase might not mean much for federal employees, who are facing higher retirement contributions and higher health insurance premium payments in 2021.

The Republican-controlled Senate waited until after the election to release its funding bills. The bills were not subject to markup in committee, as is the usual practice. The House passed 10 of its 12 appropriations bills in July. House bills covering the Department of Homeland Security and the legislative branch are still pending.

Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement that he was "disappointed" by the majority sidestepping amendments at the committee level.

"This is an important part of the process when developing legislation," Leahy said. "It would have given all members a chance to weigh in and publicly debate these bills."

Leahy said some of the bills reflect bipartisan effort at the committee level, but he's concerned about funding levels for COVID-19 relief and recovery. There could be a push for a new tranche of pandemic relief in the lame duck session of Congress. An effort to come to agreement on a $1 trillion-plus relief package was scuppered just before the election.

Congress has until Dec.11 to pass some funding measure to avoid a government shutdown – either a full slate of appropriations bills, another continuing resolution or some mix of full-year funding and stopgap legislation.

The Senate bill also looks to boost funding for the Office of Personnel Management to $325 million – up $25 million over fiscal year 2020. The legislative report accompanying the bill urges the agency to focus on cybersecurity and IT transformation.

The bill also blocks the Thrift Savings Plan from investing in countries that don't permit U.S. accounting regulators from looking at company finances – China being the most notable of these. The move extends an administration initiative to curb planned investments in a global fund that included Chinese companies which resulted in the replacement of three of the five members of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board earlier this year.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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