Pay freeze bill heading for House vote

Wednesday - 2/13/2013, 9:04pm EST

The House Rules Committee voted to fast-track legislation extending the pay freeze for federal employees through the end of the fiscal year.

Federal workers are now slated to get a 0.5 percent pay increase in March. However, the measure approved by the House Rules Committee, introduced by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), would block that increase, extending the current pay freeze into a third full year.

The mostly party-line vote in the committee allows the bill to bypass regular House procedure and head straight to the floor for a vote.

DeSantis said his bill will save $11 billion over 10 years and does not affect pay increases stemming from promotions or length of service.

Federal-employee unions and groups condemned the bill ahead of the committee vote.

"It is clear that this bill is nothing more than another direct attack on hardworking public servants," President of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) Association Joseph Beaudoin wrote in a Feb. 12 letter to lawmakers. "Instead of pushing political messaging bills, Congress should focus on the real issues lawmakers need to address in the next two months, including the threat of sequestration and the expiring continuing resolution."

Unions estimate the current two-year federal pay freeze will net the government $75 billion in deficit savings.

White House opposes bill

A related measure — an amendment introduced by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) seeking to replace the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts, known as sequestration, with alternative cuts — failed to garner enough votes to head to the House floor.

The committee also voted down an amendment that would have separated statutory pay increases for members of Congress from pay increases for federal employees. In that case, only lawmakers would have been affected by the DeSantis bill.

In a statement of administration policy, the White House said it opposes the DeSantis bill, but stopped short of an overt veto threat. The 0.5 percent pay increase mandated by President Barack Obama via executive order "will help ensure that the government remains competitive in attracting and retaining the nation's best and brightest individuals for public service," the White House stated.

The bill is expected to pass the House but would likely stall in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

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