Analysis: How the new political alignment will impact feds

Bill Bransford, general counsel, Senior Executives Association

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November 3, 2010 — What does the new make-up of Congress mean to federal workers?

Bill Bransford, general counsel of the Senior Executives Association, joined Your Turn with Mike Causey to assess how the political realignment could possibly affect you.

Mike asked Bransford about the likelihood that the following will happen:

Pay raise
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows federal employees are paid an average of 24 percent less than their private sector counterparts. But with the public perception of feds as overpaid and underworked, any type of raise is not guaranteed.

The proposed federal pay raise of 1.4 percent is still up for a vote, and Bransford said he has also heard a “rumor” that President Obama will propose a 0.9 percent raise. Bransford said the 1.4 percent probably will not pass the lame duck session.

There’s also a possibility of no raise at all, Bransford said.

The threat of a federal furlough is “very serious,” Bransford said.

The issue is as much about saving money as it is about “sending out this symbolic idea that federal employees are doing their share,” he said.

What’s more, President Obama has not ruled out furloughs.

Hiring freeze
The GOP’s Pledge to America calls for a “net hiring freeze on non-security federal employees.” Branford said he does not predict a “hard hiring freeze” like the one instituted under the Reagan administration “but rather something like for every two employees who leave you can replace one.”

In the mid-1990s, President Clinton took aim at bloated government, reclaiming what had been the Republican agenda. However, more than 300,000 people were dropped from government jobs, mostly from non-union, middle-management ranks.

“The union folks were obviously politically connected the Clinton administration,” Bransford said. “Frontline workers were somewhat immune from those cutbacks.”

The current administration will have “tremendous pressure” from the unions to protect jobs, Bransford said.

Government shutdown
In many ways, the midterm elections of 1994 look similar to Tuesday’s elections, with a Democratic administration and a Republic takeover of the House. But the gridlock may be worst now with moderate Republicans pushed out of Congress. The divide between Democrats and Republicans on the issues are “miles apart,” with candidates vowing to stick to their principles, Bransford said.

“There doesn’t seem to be a spirit of compromise,” he said.

“The dynamic of the new Congress is that (a bill) will be proposed in the House and filibustered in the Senate, and even if it gets through Congress, it’ll be vetoed by the president if he thinks it’s inappropriate,” Bransford said.

On Wednesday the National Treasury Employees Union released a statement expressing concern over increasingly negative rhetoric. NTEU is calling for politicians to stop criticism of federal employees and “get down to the business of running the country.”

“Federal employee issues should be nonpartisan,” Bransford said. “They should be free from the partisan bickering.”

The partisan bickering probably won’t stop, but Bransford said he’s hopeful politicians will work across the aisle, with “a lot of rhetoric and lot of posturing along the way.”

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