Feds and Turkeys Facing Same Fall Fate?

Wednesday - 8/3/2011, 2:00am EDT

After weeks of woe-is-me (more accurately, woe is you) dire predictions and warnings, members of the federal family - unless they work for the FAA or the U.S. Postal Service - can relax. Until November!

Congress has once again shown it's mastery of the art of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

While the government has avoided default, for a while, legislators are preparing to leave town for another extended vacation, this one until after Labor Day, without having approved many current agency budgets. With the new fiscal year coming up Oct. 1.

Congress may or may not rescue 4,000 FAA employees furloughed in a fight over, among other things, rules governing union organizing. The Democrats eased them several years ago to make it easier for employees to organize. Republicans who now control the House want a roll-back. It is likely the employees will be reimbursed for the furlough but it has caused problems for many. Some have reportedly continued to work on safety inspections even in a non-pay status.

The big question for feds and retirees is what happens when the next shoe drops?

For what seems like the seven millionth time, Congress has agreed to appoint a Blue Ribbon Panel/Commission - this one made up of 12 members of Congress, six from each party - to come up with recommendations that would implement the spending reductions that have been approved. Congress has agreed to vote up or down on proposals the commission will make around Thanksgiving time. This is the same promise it made then failed to keep: to vote up or down on some hard-choice recommendations from the late, bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, a.k.a the Simpson-Bowles commission.

What the new Turkey Group (in honor of its Thanksgiving period deadline) will also certainly do is draw heavily on recommendations from the earlier blue ribbon panel. It made several recommendations for cuts in federal worker/retire benefits that would save billions over time, and leave things like Social Security and Medicare alone. The recommendations have been made so many times, they fall into the round-up-the-usual-suspects category. But this time it may be different.

Congress, as one commentator said, has put a gun to its own head. With a timetable.

So what parts of your pay/retirement/health-insurance benefit program may wind up on the Thanksgiving chopping block? Short answer, a lot.

Everything from a continued pay freeze to new retirement rules, bigger health premiums and dramatically reduced retirement raises will be considered.

Today on our Your Turn radio show, we'll talk about the impact of the debt deal on pay and benefits, progress on hiring reform and workers comp changes. Plus, Steve Losey of the Federal Times and his colleague Sean Reilly will bring us up to speed on what the debt deal means for agency budgets/program, the FAA furlough and the latest from the USPS. We will also visit with Daniel Hirsch, State vice president of the American Foreign Service Association to talk about what's ahead for Foreign Service workers.

Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), and if you have questions email them to me at mcausey@federalnewsradio.com or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

The fortune cookie is NOT Chinese and was originally created to feed poor people. Chinese immigrant David Jung founded the Hong Kong Noodle Company while living in Los Angeles in 1918 and invented the cookie as way to inspire the poor he saw each day pass his restaurant. Inside of each cookie was a "strip of paper with an inspirational Bible scripture on it," according to Fancy Fortune Cookies.


MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

6-week FAA furlough looms
Failing to enact an extension of the FAA's authorization bill stretches the furlough of nearly 4,000 employees into September. The partial shutdown also involves stop work orders to more than 200 FAA contractors and the loss of work for an estimated 24,000 private sector employees.

Debt deal's initial savings just 'first bite of the apple'
The plan that Congress and the White House agreed on imposes caps to discretionary spending - the part of the budget dealing with the day-to-day operation of the federal government - for the next 10 years, ultimately to the tune of about $900 billion.

Where is the best place to work?
Where is the best place to work in the federal government? Fill out our quick survey! (Results will be featured in an upcoming issue of Washingtonian Magazine.)