UPDATED

House appropriators formally endorse Biden’s 2022 federal pay proposal

This story has been updated on Thursday, June 24, 2021 at 12:15 p.m. to reflect House subcommittee passage of the 2022 financial services and general government appropriations bill. 

The House has officially suggested it will go along with the president’s proposed 2.7% federal pay raise for civilian employees in 2022, according to a draft bill appropriators released Wednesday.

The bill, which the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government easily advanced Thursday morning, makes no mention of a federal pay raise for General Schedule employees next year.

In their silence, House appropriators have essentially deferred to the plan President Joe Biden offered in his budget request last month. He recommended a 2.7% average federal pay raise for civilian employees in 2022, with no details on how locality adjustments might factor into the mix.

Active-duty military members are also on track for a 2.7% pay raise next year.

A 2.7% federal pay raise would be more than the 1% bump employees received this year, but less than the 3.1% increase the workforce got back in 2020.

A group of House and Senate Democrats has introduced legislation that would give employees a 3.2% federal pay raise next year.

Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) previewed the House’s plans Tuesday at the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association’s virtual conference.

She also suggested the Senate was interested in providing a 2.7% pay raise as well, but it’s unclear when exactly appropriators in the other chamber might formally weigh in on the matter.

Of course, a lot can change between now and the end of the year on federal pay, and employee unions and organizations are hopeful either Congress or the White House will adopt the proposed raise from House and Senate Democrats.

“Certainly the White House’s 2.7% proposal is a welcome start to the debate over what federal employees deserve next year, but there is plenty of time for the administration and Congress to reconsider and give frontline federal workers an average 3.2%,” Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said Thursday in a statement.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) Association said it too was discouraged that House appropriators provided only a silent endorsement of the president’s proposed pay raise.

“It’s disappointing that House lawmakers failed to provide clear support for our nation’s public servants with explicit language in the appropriations bill,” Ken Thomas, NARFE national president, said Thursday in a statement. “This leaves federal employees in a precarious position. Now they must rely solely on President Biden to uphold a promise made in his budget request, rather than their elected representatives in Congress to secure a market-based pay increase. Civil servants remain dependent on the uncertain outcome of bipartisan, bicameral budget negotiations without any clear congressional support for their dedication to serving our nation.”

The White House must submit an alternative pay plan to Congress by the end of August, and the president must make any adjustment official through an executive order, which typically comes near the end of the calendar year.

The House’s draft bill maintains a pay freeze for the vice president and certain political appointees and executives.

Notably, the bill removes a long-held prohibition on abortion services in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, a point of controversy for House Republicans.

The legislation also blocks agencies from prohibiting the use of official time or telework “when the health or safety of an employee is in question.” It also prevents agencies from using federal funds to deny employees office space for “union activities,” seemingly a direct response to the executive orders former President Donald Trump signed back in 2018 that Biden has since repealed.

Under the 2022 House proposal, the IRS would see a $1.7 billion funding boost in 2022, with a significant portion going toward taxpayer services, enforcement and the agency’s IT modernization needs.

The bill also includes $42 million more for the Office of Personnel Management over 2021 levels. OPM is still recovering from the loss of its former security clearance business, which brought in nearly $1 billion in revenue to the agency before the Defense Department took over the portfolio back in 2019.

The Office of Management and Budget would see a $16.3 million budget increase, while the National Cyber Director would get $15 million to stand up its new office.

The Executive Office of the President would get $4.5 million to pay their interns.

The House’s 2022 draft bill also includes several new provisions aimed at improving budget transparency. One provision, for example, requires OMB to publicly disclose the apportionment of appropriations — and gives the agency $1 million to create an automated system that documents those activities.

Other provisions require agencies to provide the Government Accountability Office with budget and appropriations information more quickly.

In addition, the 2022 draft bill allows the General Services Administration to spend $10.4 billion through the Federal Buildings Fund, with $254 million for the Department of Homeland Security’s headquarters consolidation at St. Elizabeths.

The House proposal also dedicates $300 million to electrify the federal fleet, a key Biden administration climate initiative.

The 2022 draft bill, again, tries to create a new Commission on Federal Naming and Displays, which would review and recommend name changes to federal properties that are “inconsistent with the values of diversity, equity and inclusion.” The commission would create a list of recommended changes and submit them for the president’s consideration.

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