The short answer is: we really have no idea. Putting the election aside for a minute, it’s too tough to speculate how the pandemic and the accompanying economic downturn may impact Congress’ thinking on federal pay.
The president has until Aug. 31 to announce his intentions, and he usually waits until as close to the deadline as possible. It’s often a late-breaking Friday-before-Labor Day announcement, but the president chose to lock his plan in with Congress early.
If Congress does nothing on federal pay between now and the rest of the calendar year, the president’s 1% federal pay raise for 2021 is almost bound to move forward. To make it official, the president will have to sign an executive order implementing a 1% pay raise for civilian federal employees before the year ends. The EO, regardless of what it says, almost always comes near the holidays.
But Congress can — as it has for the last two years — offer up and pass its own federal pay raise into law.
The Senate, which is often quiet on federal pay, may likely stay silent again this year.
But the Democratically-controlled House, which has spent the past several months advocating for pandemic and hazard pay for frontline federal workers, may look at the president’s 1% pay raise proposal and decide it’s not enough.
We’ll have a better sense for the plan forward Wednesday, when the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government conducts its markup.
The subcommittee may include its own federal pay raise proposal in its 2021 bill. It could, as it did during the previous year, opt for pay parity with the military.
Military members are on track for a 3% pay raise next year, and House subcommittee members may say civilian federal employees should get the same. Or House members could, if they’re feeling especially generous, recommend a 3.5% federal pay raise, as a bicameral pair of Democrats introduced with standalone legislation way back in late January.
In today’s climate a 3.5% federal pay raise seems rather unlikely for 2021. Congress rarely passes standalone legislation that deals with federal pay, and in an election year where many senators are campaigning throughout much of October, there’s little time for the votes.
Of course, House subcommittee members may stay silent on federal pay in their upcoming markup, and if they do, the president’s 1% proposal sure seems like a done deal.
But if House lawmakers do make their own pay raise recommendation (3% or some other number entirely), we have a little more suspense on our hands.
Which brings us back to the election. A look at the House and Senate session calendars for the rest of 2020 will show you there are few legislative work days left this year, leaving lawmakers little time to pass appropriations bills in regular order — much less a more likely continuing resolution and subsequent omnibus spending package.
But if everything goes well, federal employees may see Congress take up and pass a new pay raise for 2021.
The QWERTY keyboard layout was designed to help people type faster. Original designs of the typewriter used alphabetically-arranged keys mounted on metal arms, which would jam if people typed too fast. Inventor Christopher Latham Soles invented the QWERTY layout to separate common letter pairings to reduce the number of these jams.