Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) leaves a news conference on Capitol Hill in
Washington in July. (Harry Hamburg – Associated Press)
The House is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a new bill that would freeze the salaries of federal employees, lawmakers and congressional staffers for another year.
The vote comes as a new government report shows that federal employees on average earn about 2 percent more than private sector employees in a comparable profession. When pension and health benefits are factored in, federal employees earn about 16 percent more in total compensation than private sector workers, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The bill, introduced Friday by Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), goes against the wishes of the White House, which hopes to increase federal civilian worker salaries by 0.5 percent next year, but is consistent with congressional Republican efforts to curtail government spending in part by freezing or reducing government salaries.
“As American families and businesses have been forced to tighten their belts, Washington has refused to do the same,” Duffy said in a statement Monday. “Congress must be willing to make the same sacrifices we’re asking of others, that’s why I introduced this bill. We must act now to extend the pay freeze on federal workers and on members’ salaries until Washington finally gets its finances under control.”
Federal worker unions have opposed any attempts to continue the two-year freeze in cost of living adjustments for federal employees, and though President Obama’s 2013 budget request is slated to include the 0.5 percent pay increase proposal, union leaders have warned members to expect further attempts to continue the freeze or to cut federal salaries.
During last year’s debate over extending the payroll tax credit, House and Senate Republicans proposed spending cuts that would have extended the pay freeze for one more year and forced workers to pay more for their federal retirement plans and separate plans to cut the federal workforce by 10 percent in the next decade by attrition.
Though such proposals are normally introduced by conservative Republican lawmakers, more moderate senators have said that the pay freeze should continue for at least one more year.
Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, called provisions in Duffy’s bill that would freeze congressional pay “a political ploy” that would set up “a Hobson’s choice that would require Representatives to vote against extending the freeze for themselves in order to lift the freeze on federal employees.”
Kelley — and other union officials — noted that the two-year cost of living pay freeze set to expire at year’s end is already on course to save taxpayers about $60 billion over the next decade.
Wednesday’s vote is scheduled to be on a motion to suspend the rules and permit a full House vote on the bill without consideration by relevant committees. Normally, a bill regarding federal employee and congressional pay would be referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform and Administration committees.
Few people collecting a federal paycheck have had a significant change in pay in recent years. Obama froze the salaries of top West Wing staffers and political officials after taking office in 2009. A pay raise for most civilian federal employees went into effect in January 2010. Since then, only step increases and pay jumps tied to promotion have been paid. A pay raise for most civilian federal employees went into effect in January 2010. Since then, only step increases and pay jumps tied to promotion have been paid. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers and their staffs have not had a raise in four of the past six years.
According to the CBO report released Monday, federal employees in lower-level jobs make more than private sector workers, but higher-skilled workers with advanced degrees earn less than their private-sector counterparts. Federal workers with a high school education or less earn about $4 more an hour than private sector employees.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Monday that CBO’s report confirms differences in compensation between federal and private sector workers.
“While millions of Americans continue to struggle with stagnant wages and high unemployment, government bureaucrats in Washington continue to enjoy significant advantages over those whose tax dollars finance their compensation,” Ryan said.