Feds' guide to the State of the Union

Tuesday - 1/25/2011, 4:17pm EST

Mike Causey, senior correspondent, Federal News Radio

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Tom Shoop, Editor-in-Chief, Government Executive

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The possibility that President Obama will propose a five-year freeze on non-security, discretionary spending may have federal workers wondering if this freeze includes their pay.

Feds already face a two-year freeze and could face a five-year freeze if a bill proposed in the House becomes law.

The proposals are a stark contrast to feds' treatment on the Hill two years ago, said Federal News Radio senior correspondent Mike Causey.

"A year ago, if you said two year pay freeze, oh haha let's make it five. We'd still be laughing," Causey said.

The fact that a five-year freeze has been proposed shows that times are different, he said.

"It's unprecedented the level of...targeting feds for bearing a big brunt of whatever budget reductions come," said Tom Shoop, editor-in-chief of Government Executive.

Causey said, "These are tough times and really the sky is the limit and just about anything could happen."

On the bright side, a five-year pay freeze may be proposed, but it may not become the reality.

"No matter what is done in the next few weeks or even year, that doesn't necessarily means it'll last for five years," Causey said.

The bill in the House proposes reducing federal spending for all non-security agencies back to 2008 levels for 2011 and to 2006 levels for the next nine years. Republican lawmakers want to make cuts to the federal civilian workforce and eliminate the Agency for International Development.

The bill leaves open the question of which other federal programs will be cut back or cut altogether. GovLoop asks for your thoughts on the programs that should be axed.

Take the poll!: What's the state of the federal government?

State of the Union online
Join the DorobekINSIDER for a live discussion during the address, which starts at 9 p.m. E.T.

Whitehouse.gov will stream live the State of the Union, expected to last one hour. The site will also have visual aids, such as charts and statistics, to offer an "enhanced viewer experience."

TechPresident reports that on Tuesday before the address, several advisers, aides, and assistants will be online taking questions, and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs will be on Twitter. Plus, at some point during the week, Vice President Joe Biden will be on Yahoo!

Despite the online presence, Matt Bai of The New York Times questions that the president is doing enough to get his message out.

Answering questions online is essentially the "same kind of televised town hall that president have been doing since the dawn of the broadcast era," Bai argues.

He adds that the president has not yet found a way to make himself accessible to "the wider electorate online."

DorobekINSIDER State of the Union reader

And to liven things up ...
Try the State of the Union drinking game!

Compiled by Politico, here are some of the suggestions:

From Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart: "Every time the camera pans to show Sen. McCain's grimace, drink! Long shot: If Speaker Boehner cries, dabs his eyes, reaches for the handkerchief, CHUG!"

From The Week/Bloomberg's Margaret Carlson: "[Drink] Every time the president says 'Let us … ' and not in the ‘Peter Rabbit' sense. Of course, if the first lady has gotten her hands on the speech and real lettuce (organic) has found its way in, [take] two shots of filtered spring water heirloom potato boutique vodka."