Lame Duck Congress Part II

Tuesday - 9/28/2010, 4:25pm EDT

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September 29, 2010 -- What does a lame duck Congress mean for federal hiring and pay?

Federal News Radio's Mike Causey posed the question to Bill Bransford, general counsel for the Senior Executives Association and partner at Shaw, Bransford & Roth.

With as many as 40 seats that could go either Republican or Democrat, Bransford said he is "nervous of the unknown."

"The best-case scenario for the Democrats is they might maintain a majority in 7-8 seats and now they have 50," Bransford said.

If the GOP takes one or both houses of Congress, Bransford said he sees a continuing resolution going into next year.

With Republican control, Bransford predicts the passage of "anti-federal employee legislation" as politicians ride on a wave of the public perception that federal employees are fat cats.

President Obama has requested a 1.4 percent pay raise for civilian employees and 1.9 percent military pay raise. Bransford said there is a "good chance" the raise will pass but there's no guarantee. Amidst the anti-federal worker rhetoric, anyone asking for a raise will be dismissed as an "ingrate," he said.

Bransford disagrees with reports that feds are overpaid, saying the data compares "apples to oranges," referring to comments made by John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management.

Federal employees are on the job longer, bringing greater experience and skills. Long-time federal employees "know the ins and outs" of the agencies they work for, Bransford said. "They're worth the money."

Although a pay raise is uncertain, Bransford said he thinks a "full-blown" hiring freeze is unlikely.

The last general freeze occurred under the Reagan administration.

"People learned from that there are problems with a hiring freeze: critical, unmet public needs," Bransford said.

Advocates of a hiring freeze point to the increased size of the federal workforce since Obama came into office. Bransford counters that these recent hires addressed "long-neglected concerns," such as in the Social Security Administration the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Federal agencies are also relying less on contractors. Bransford said this is a good thing because federal employees cost less than contractors and are more accountable.

Even the Pledge to America -- the House GOP's agenda -- does not address a hiring freeze specifically, offering exemptions for employees in security and public health.

Last week, Mike Causey discussed the effect of a lame duck Congress on federal workers with Charity Wilson from the American Federation of Government Employees and Jessica Klement from the Federal Managers Association.

Listen to Your Turn Wednesday at 10 a.m. (EST)

And if you have a question for the show, email Mike Causey or call the show live at (202) 465-3080.

Bill Bransford is a co-host of FEDtalk, a bi-weekly show on Federal News Radio.