Lawmakers in districts with large constituencies of federal employees are signaling their support for the bipartisan budget deal announced Tuesday even though it would require new federal workers to contribute a greater share of their paychecks to their retirement benefits. The alternatives — another government shutdown or a second year of the steep across-the-board sequestration cuts — would have been worse, they argue.
Lawmakers, who face a self-imposed Friday deadline to come up with a fiscal 2014 budget plan, appear to be making progress toward a limited deal that would stave off another shutdown and give agencies the certainty of funding for the remainder of the year.But lawmakers with districts surrounding Washington, D.C. are preemptively speaking out against any proposal that, in their words, would “throw federal employees under the bus.” Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), says that too often in the past federal employees’ pay and benefits have “been used as pawns in budget negotiations.”
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, took to the Senate floor this week calling on House-Senate budget negotiators to look at replacing the across-the-board sequestration cuts for at least two years.
The bill passed by Congress reopening the federal government after a two-week shutdown grants retroactive pay for furloughed federal workers and clears the way for all federal employees to receive a 1 percent pay raise in January. The continuing resolution, which funds government operations through Jan. 15, also grants agencies some spending flexibilities to avoid sequestration-related furloughs over the next few months.
Two weeks into a government shutdown that has hamstrung federal agencies and sent large sections of their employees home without pay, Congress is heading for another last-minute showdown — this time over raising the government’s borrowing authority, known as the debt ceiling.
The House voted today to approve a measure to fund federal agencies through the remainder of fiscal 2013. The bill averts a government shutdown but extends the freeze on federal employees’ pay through the end of 2013. The bill now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The administration issued new guidance late Wednesday detailing specific steps agencies should take as sequestration now is one-day away. Danny Werfel, OMB’s controller, told agency leaders to place “increased scrutiny” around several personnel issues, including new hires, training, travel and conferences.
Obama administration officials are painting a bleak picture of how federal agencies would fare under sequestration, the automatic budget cuts slated to go into effect in two weeks. The Senate Appropriations Committee heard testimony from several Obama administration officials about the consequences of the cuts, which are set to take effect March 1. However, Danny Werfel, controller of the Office of Management and Budget, emphasized to the committee that employee furloughs would not be immediate.
An amendment to a Senate bill aiming to restructure the U.S. Postal Service’s financial framework would institute new agency reporting requirements for retiring federal workers in anticipation of a “deluge of retirees” from USPS. Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), introduced an amendment last week that requires the Office of Personnel Management to take new steps to chip away at the longstanding backlog of federal retirement claims.
Democratic Senators, led by Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), say Panetta’s plan breaks the law.