House bill blocks pay increase for feds

Wednesday - 1/16/2013, 4:15pm EST

A team of House Republican lawmakers is seeking to block a slight pay raise for federal workers slated to go into effect at the end of March.

In an executive order issued late last month, President Barack Obama mandated an end to the two-year pay freeze with a 0.5 percent increase for federal employees beginning March 27. Previously, Obama indicated he would up federal pay but only after a stop-gap continuing resolution funding the government on a short-term basis expired.

The House bill, introduced by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), cancels the planned pay increase, which he says would cost $11 billion over the next decade.

The House is set to debate the measure next week.

DeSantis: Gov't can't afford pay increase

DeSantis cited a 2012 study from the Congressional Budget Office, which indicated federal employees earn 16 percent more in total compensation (salary plus retirement benefits) than their counterparts in the private sector.

"At a time when the average federal worker compensation is nearly double the median U.S. household income, and attrition from the federal workforce is already at an all-time low, we simply cannot afford this unnecessary and unilateral action by the President," DeSantis said in a statement. "This bill rescinds the President's action and makes clear that the federal workforce — including Cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, and other salaried employees — will not receive an across-the-board pay increase this year."

Earlier this year, Congress voted to reject a pay increase for lawmakers.

DeSantis' bill has garnered 28 co-sponsors, among them Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The planned pay increase would apply to all federal employees, even those receiving poor performance reviews, Issa said.

"As President Obama continues to say one thing and do another on deficit spending, it is appropriate for Congress to challenge his unilateral decision to spend $11 billion on non-merit based pay raises for federal workers," Issa said in a statement.

Obama first proposed a two-year pay freeze in December 2010, after the high-profile Simpson-Bowles deficit commission recommended a three-year halt on federal pay increase.

Unions blast proposal

Federal-employee unions have long decried the prospect of extending the federal pay freeze. They say the current pay freeze has already netted the government $88 billion in savings.

Colleen Kelley, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said DeSantis' proposal "is merely a continuation of the anti-federal worker line of attack that became an all-too-familiar staple of the 112th Congress, particularly in the House."

The American Federation of Government Employees also blasted the bill, saying it politicized the issue of federal pay.

The salary freeze — along with the threat of furloughs, layoffs and another complete government shutdown — are a punishment in search of a crime," AFGE President J. David Cox said in a statement. "Federal employees had no part in the financial crisis and the ensuing recession, and they should not be forced into penury to reduce a deficit they had no part in creating."

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