How will a lame duck Congress affect feds?

From pay freeze proposals to furloughs, there are a lot of issues before Congress that could affect feds. This week on Your Turn, Mike interviews Charity Wilson...

September 22, 2010 — From pay freeze proposals to furloughs, there are a lot of issues before Congress that could affect feds.

This week on Your Turn, Mike interviewed Charity Wilson from the American Federation of Government Employees and Jessica Klement from the Federal Managers Association, about what a lame duck Congress could mean to federal workers and retirees.

Will more lame duck members mean less change? Or is the mood of the country strong enough that feds should be worried?

“I think there is a growing anti-fed sentiment, there are more and more news stories coming out about over-paid feds,” Klement said.

To a certain extent, Klement said, it’s understandable.

“If you had lost your job, would you want to read in the papers about how federal employees may get a 1.4 percent pay raise? Of course you wouldn’t,” Klement said, but the public can lose sight of how much the federal government does. And federal employees need to do a better job informing the public what they do on their behalf.

So far in this Congress there have been three attempts to freeze federal pay.

“There is some genuine concern about the size of government, and folks want to rein in government spending,” Klement said. “It’s unfortunate though when certain Republican leaders in Congress want to rein in government spending and they just say ‘Ok, let’s deny feds a pay raise’.”

The worrisome element to Klement though is that all three attempts failed on a procedural motion.

“We haven’t had a straight up or down, stand-alone vote in either chamber to give or deny feds a pay raise next year, and if that should happen, I’m very weary of how that vote would come out,” Klement said.

To Wilson, lawmakers’ threats are mostly the result of political posturing leading up to the election.

“We believe that we would win that vote,” Wilson said. “The bottom line is that there are many, many ways to address deficit, and we are trying to get information to the Hill that it’s profoundly unfair to basically try to balance the budget on the backs of federal workers when there are other avenues that haven’t been approached.”

Klement agreed. Many of the proposals that have been put forth, she said have been short-sighted. And there could be bigger problems on the way. If Republicans win control, especially the House, Klement said, they are likely to be very focused on reducing the federal deficit, and the federal retirement formula system could be effected.

Both Wilson and Klement strongly suggested that federal employees across the country carefully monitor not just what Congress as a whole does, but what their individual representatives and senators are saying as well.

Wilson stressed that regardless of what they face, feds must realize that “no matter what diverse backgrounds and viewpoints they come from, you have to speak as one.”

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