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A coalition of more than two dozen federal-employee unions and advocacy groups is calling on budget negotiators to come up with a way to undo the across-the-board sequestration budget cuts that are poised to slash agency spending by billions more this year. But following three years of a pay freeze and the recent 16-day government shutdown, the groups are equally adamant that changes to federal employees' pay and benefits should be off the table.
The heads of DoD's military services say they were able to somewhat blunt sequestration's impact during its first year by using several one-time tactics. But they say the consequences of sudden reductions will get worse in 2014 and beyond.
Former top staffers say current members of Congress no longer have a stake in any particular appropriation or authorization bill making its way through the legislative gauntlet — one reason why DoD and the rest of government continue to stumble from one continuing resolution to the next.
Pentagon leaders have spent the past two years warning Congress that sequestration would severely hamper the ability to deploy military forces to contingencies around the world. With no apparent relief in sight from the cuts, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said it's time to start thinking about making the best of a bad situation.
When House and Senate lawmakers kicked off formal budget negotiations this week for the first time since the government shutdown ended, both Republicans and Democrats said replacing sequestration, the blunt across-the-board budget cuts, with an alternative plan would be a top priority. The sticking point remains how to pay for it. Federal-employee unions and advocacy groups fear federal pay and benefits will once again be on the table.
The 62-35 vote comes more than five months after President Barack Obama nominated the former Labor Department chief of staff and Obama reelection campaign official to serve as the next head of the agency.
For the first time since the government shutdown ended two weeks ago, House and Senate lawmakers are sitting down at the table to negotiate about the fiscal 2014 budget. At the top of the agenda will be what to do about the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration that have ensnared what remained of the traditional budget process this year. However, budget experts and insiders say sequestration is likely to stick around -- at least in some form -- and about the best agencies can hope for is a small-bore deal that grants them some greater flexibility in implementing the cuts, these experts said.
With the partial government shutdown behind them, members of Congress are working on several bills that impact the federal workforce, including a resolution that supports ending the federal pay freeze and a bill that tackles the claims backlog at Veterans Affairs.