House bill would refreeze federal worker pay

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The House is scheduled to vote the week of Jan. 21 on a bill that would refreeze federal worker pay levels and reverse an increase called for in a Dec. 27 executive order from President Obama.

The president's proposed pay increase of 0.5 percent is set to take effect March 27 and would be the first governmentwide cost-of-living adjustment since the federal worker pay freeze started in November 2010.

The legislation (H.R. 273) was proposed by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and has secured major party backing including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and co-sponser Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

DeSantis said the increase would cost the government $11 billion over 10 years, citing a Congressional Budget Office study (.pdf), and that since the "average federal worker compensation is nearly double the median U.S. household income of just over $50,000 per year, we simply cannot afford this."

The study also says keeping the pay freeze could save the government up to $60 billion over 10 years. The current pay freeze stops the across-the-board annual COLAs federal workers get, but some are able to increase their pay through promotions, bonuses and step increases in their existing pay grade.

Cantor also invoked American families, saying "at a time when we should be focused on helping families get on solid financial footing, members of Congress, the vice president, cabinet secretaries and federal employees don't need a raise." Congress has already been stripped of its raise as part of the fiscal cliff deal.

Issa said it is appropriate for Congress to go against the non-merit-based pay raise as "President Obama continues to say one thing and do another on deficit spending." Issa also said he would like to see the government stick to the Simpson-Bowles recommendation of a three-year pay freeze.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that federal employees should be given raises and that the proposed increase doesn't keep up with inflation. Hoyer said should not be punished by losing "hard-earned pay because Congress cannot reach a balanced solution to deficits."

The action mirrors H.R. 6726 passed by the House 287-129 on Jan. 1, a bill that would block federal worker and congressional pay raises, but has not been taken up by the Senate. DeSantis' legislation may face a similar fate unless it winds up getting attached to debt ceiling, sequestration or continuing resolution bills expected in the next three months.

For more:
- go to the THOMAS page for H.R. 273
- read statements from DeSantis, Cantor, Issa and Hoyer

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