You’ve got friends in high places, seriously …

Pro-federal politicians, led by the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia congressional delegation are likely to revive a coalition formed during the Clinton years to squeeze a bigger white-collar federal pay raise out of Congress and the White House. It also continued the guerilla war against the President during the Bush administration by upping the amount of January raises.

President Obama has recommended a 0.5 percent federal pay raise for January 2013 for federal civil servants and a 1.6 percent increase for members of the uniformed military. If history repeats itself, the coalition will ask that both groups get at least 1.6 percent.

Federal unions, all of whom backed Sen. Barack Obama during the campaign, are seething — relatively quietly — at what a top union field officer called “an insult instead of a pay raise.” But some are delighted that the budget outline doesn’t call for a continuation of the current federal pay freeze for another year. The Republican-run House is likely to push for an extension of the 2011-2012 pay freeze for at least another year. It will also seek to downsize the government.

While many federal workers believe they are the favorite whipping boy of politicians — especially on the GOP side — they do have friends in high places and leadership posts in the House and Senate.

When President Clinton took office, his first budget proposed a pay freeze in spite of the bipartisan federal pay law ( FEPCA) which called for the first in a series of catchup-with-industry raises. An informal but influential coalition formed up to gain support in the House for higher raises. They were usually successful in end — running first President Clinton and then President George W. Bush. The bipartisan coalition included Maryland Democrats Steny Hoyer, Elijah Cummings, and Virginia Democrat Jim Moran, and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. It also included Virginia Republicans Frank Wolf and Tom Davis III, and Rep. Constance Morella (R-Md.) Davis, Morella and Cummings are no longer in Congress but their successors, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.)and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) are pro-fed, up for reelection and understand very well that their districts are packed with highly-educated, politically savvy federal civil servants., their spouses and businesses that depend in large part on the federal salary dollar.

On the Senate side, feds have lost powerful friends, like the late Sen. Ted Stevens(R-Alaska). But they have another long-time backer in Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and freshman (and up for reelection) Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), as well as veterans Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in their corner. During the annual federal pay wars, Virginia’s senators, Republican and Democratic, often look the other way to avoid alienating voters outside the large federal-military pockets of Northern Virginia, and Norfolk.

Nobody at the stage knows what the 2013 raise will be. Or if there will be a civilian pay hike in 2013. But the fact that the White House proposed one — even one that will give the average fed less than $400 more a year — is viewed by some as a sort-of-positive.

So how do feds feel about the increase. Of those responding to Federal News Radio’s survey, about half say it’s insulting. Forget about it! Others say it’s something but not much, or better than a sharp stick in the eye.


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