Freezes, furloughs and funding on the Hill

Wednesday - 12/1/2010, 10:31am EST

Ian Swanson, news editor, The Hill

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Congress is working on a full plate during the lame duck session. The continuing resolution that's funding agencies expires on Friday. And then there's also the question of when they will take up the president's proposed pay freeze for civilian federal workers.

Ian Swanson is news editor at The Hill, talked about the Congressional agenda with Federal News Radio.

Here are a few of his comments on three major concerns of federal employees:

Pay Freeze
"There's a 1.4% pay raise that's scheduled to go into effect January first," said Swanson, but blocking that would be simple. Congress would add it to an omnibus or the continuing resolution "so if they want to do it, it's not going to be too hard for them to fit it in, since it can just move with that vehicle." Swanson said that would leave any decision on the second year of the two year freeze to the next Congress.

Furloughs/Cutting the Federal Workforce
In considering the recommendation by the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform of a 10% reduction in the federal workforce by 2015, Swanson said, he'd be "really surprised" if the commission could get 14 votes needed to send it to Congress. If that does happen, said Swanson, the Senate has guaranteed a vote, but the House has not. "So we're a few steps away from that, I think." More likely, said Swanson, is that the report will go into the mix of ideas that Congress and the President will have to look at, eventually, in order to get the debt under control.

Agency Funding
Watch for Congress to initially pass a continuing resolution to fund the federal government only through December 18th. "The reason they're doing that," said Swanson, "is because they want to give themselves more time to negotiate what they're really going to do before the end of the lame duck. Again, there's talk of an omnibus spending bill. I think that's still the approach that Sen. (Daniel) Inouye (D-HI), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I think that's still what he'd prefer to do, but you've also got talk about a one year continuing resolution. There's still some talk about a two or three month continuing resolution at the end of the year that would sort of kick the ball to Republicans. It really still remains to be seen what they're going to decide to do."

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