In an effort to save $11 billion, The House voted to extend the two-year pay freeze for federal workers another 9 months. The pay freeze on Cost of Living Allowances, originally started in 2010 by President Obama, was part of an effort to reduce the federal deficit. Fast forward two years and the President now wants to raise the allowance. House Republicans played a major role in blocking the executive order.
The House measure, approved on a 261-154 vote, blocks an executive order issued by President Barack Obama last December that would give the nation’s 2 million civilian federal workers a 0.5 percent cost-of-living raise from March 27, when the current federal spending agreement expires, through the end of the year.
Opposition to the freeze from Democrats and the Whitehouse insist that it is putting undue pressure on federal employees who they claim have already done their part to help reduce the federal deficit. In a report by the Seattle Times, supporters for the freeze point out federal workers have not suffered the same as the average private sector worker.
Those supporting the freeze say the average federal worker compensation, including benefits, is nearly double the median U.S. household income. They point to a 2012 Congressional Budget Office study showing that, while wages are similar for federal workers and comparable private sector workers, federal workers on the whole had more generous benefit packages. Overall, it said, total compensation is 16 percent higher in the public sector.
Critics of the pay freeze claim it is only a political stunt that hurts hard working federal employees.
One of the harshest critics of the bill was Republican Frank Wolf, whose northern Virginia district includes many federal workers. “This bill is nothing more than a political stunt that targets the hardworking, dedicated men and women of the civil service,” he said in a letter to his GOP colleagues, reminding them that people who haven’t seen a raise in more than two years include CIA and FBI agents, border and customs agents, nurses and doctors at VA facilities, food inspectors, firefighters at national forests and NASA astronauts and engineers.
According the The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee the actual impact to these workers from the pay freeze would be minimal.
The freeze only applies to cost-of-living adjustments, and not merit and longevity raises. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee cited figures showing that, with merit-based raises and other “step” increases, the median pay for a federal employee in September last year was $72,714, up more than $3,000 from two years earlier. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the pay freeze would cost each employee $274 for the year.
(H/T: Seattle Times)