Federal pay freeze extension to three years all but a done deal with Senate bill

The Federal DiaryThe Federal Diary
Joe Davidson

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about the federal workplace that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.

Federal pay freeze extension to three years all but a done deal with Senate bill

By , Tuesday, March 12, 7:07 PM

Just when the walloping of federal workers seemed to have reached a peak — BAM — here comes an unexpected blow from the left.

At almost the same time, the workers were the target of additional, albeit not surprising, hits from the right.

Just last week, Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat with a strong history of supporting the federal workforce, told the Federal Diary, “I’ll be working my earrings off to fight the extension of the federal pay freeze included in the House-passed continuing resolution.”

Precisely, because it is in the bill passed largely by House Republicans, federal employees see no reason for the extension to be in a bill promoted by Senate Democrats, although the Senate measure is bipartisan.

“This is not a happy day for me, and it is not a happy day for the millions of people who work diligently for the federal government,” Mikulski told the Senate on Tuesday, her tone subdued.

“I think this is a terrible mistake,” she added. She believed she had no choice but to make a deal with the Republicans.

“Reluctantly,” she said to the workforce, “the way I serve you is to make sure there is no government shutdown.”

Mikulski is a sincere fighter for feds. But they can’t take her good thoughts to the bank. Once again, the workforce is being made to pay, literally, for decisions made by the elected group of federal employees whose competence pales in comparison with those who were merely hired.

With the Senate and the House each including the freeze extension in their spending measures, it is essentially a done deal. Federal employees can kiss a promised 0.5 percent pay raise goodbye.

“We are fed up with furloughs. We are fed up with frozen salaries,” Joseph A. Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE), said at a Capitol Hill rally.

“It’s got to stop somewhere. Why can’t it stop today?”

Because Congress won’t stop it.

In addition to going without a little increase in their checks next month, workers also will begin taking unpaid furlough in April, which for some will amount to a pay cut of up to 20 percent through the end of the fiscal year in September.

“We’ve already sacrificed,” said Tim Gartner, a 29-year Defense Department retiree who worked at the former Newark Air Force Base in Ohio. He and his wife, Sandy, were among the NARFE members who rallied in support of the workforce.

“We want to do our share to balance this budget,” he added. “And we’re willing to do that. We just don’t want to be the scapegoats.”

While the freeze extension in the Senate legislation is symbolically a shock for federal workers, including the freeze in the House resolution last week was a good indication it would become law, even if Democrats in the Senate and the White House had opposed it. With Republicans insisting on the continued freeze, Democrats saw little option but to cave in the name of a larger good, in this case averting a shutdown.

 

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