Six-month CR makes extension of fed pay freeze official

Tuesday - 9/11/2012, 8:37pm EDT

The six-month stopgap spending bill unveiled by the House Appropriations Committee this week officially continues the federal pay freeze until at least March.

The continuing resolution, which runs through March 27, gives lawmakers more time to make appropriations for the coming year and staves off the threat of a government shutdown. When lawmakers first announced a temporary deal on 2013 funding, the full Congress had not yet approved any fiscal 2013 spending bills.

Last month, President Barack Obama proposed a 0.5 percent pay raise that would only take effect once Congress passed a 2013 budget — a de facto extension of the current two-year freeze. The CR makes the extension official.

Colleen Kelley, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said the extension of the pay freeze was "disappointing," and that the union will press lawmakers to include a retroactive pay raise when Congress takes up individual appropriations bills.

In a statement, Kelley said the union is also concerned about agency funding levels included in the CR, calling them "inadequate in the long term."

House Appropriations Committee Chairman, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) introduced the measure Monday, which under the budgetary caps agreed to in the 2011 Budget Control Act, provides $1.047 trillion in funding for 2013. That represents a 0.6 percent across-the-board increase above fiscal 2012 levels.

Rogers called the bill a "good-faith effort" to fund the government until appropriations are finalized.

"This bill is very restricted in its scope, does not contain extensive or controversial policy riders or funding levels that dramatically differ from current levels, and protects critical funding for our national defense," Rogers said in a statement.

While the CR garnered bipartisan support for being "clean," — containing few changes in policy or controversial add-ons — it does contain several new provisions.

"Some changes to current law are needed to prevent catastrophic, irreversible or detrimental changes to government programs, or to ensure good government and program oversight," according to a committee release.

In addition to the official extension of the federal pay freeze, those provisions include:

  • Additional funding for the Homeland Security Department's cybersecurity efforts

  • Additional funding for the Veterans Benefit Administration "to meet an increase in the disability claims workload."

  • Requiring all federal agencies to provide spending plans to Congress "to ensure transparency and the proper use of taxpayer dollars"

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said these "anomalies" would allow the government to continue operating without disruption.

"However, let no one think that putting the government on autopilot for a full six months is a good idea," Inouye said in a statement. "Resources that could have been used for more urgent or important projects will instead be available for lower-priority items."

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