A few years back, congressional leaders were outraged that their colleagues, the people they are supposed to lead, hadn’t done their jobs. Congress had passed only one of the appropriation bills required to keep the government up and running in the new (Oct. 1) fiscal year.
Each side blamed the other for the coming train wreck that would shut down the government, threaten women and orphans and our very way of life.
Remember all that talk of shutdowns and furloughs?
Then at the last minute, after mutually assured partisan shots, Congress once again found a way to keep government running without doing very much. It approved a series of Continuing Resolutions and went home.
This year the same thing is happening minus, thanks to the upcoming elections, the blame game or talk of government shutdowns.
After a series of extended breaks this year, Congress returned from Labor Day (on September 14th) and next week will take an election recess. That will be followed by an after-the-election session which may include a lot of angry, hurt or disappointed lame ducks.
In a repeat of previous years Congress has, once again, failed to approve any of the 12 major appropriations bills needed to keep government running. The difference, however, is that nobody is talking about layoffs, furloughs or government shutdowns. Instead, congressional leaders with an eye on the Nov. 2 elections have agreed to continue approve a series of CRs (continuing resolutions) to keep government running. What a difference an election year makes.
Groups representing federal workers, postal employees, retirees, managers and supervisors are concerned about the lame duck session. About what might happen to everything from pay and benefits. They are even more nervous about possible recommendations from a blue-ribbon panel tasked with recommending ways (cuts) to reduce the deficit. It will report to Congress on Dec. 1 and like the Base Realignment and Closure commission (BRAC) before it, its recommendations will go to Congress for an up-or-down vote.
On the civil service front, the panel could recommend anything from a federal pay change to a new way to calculate (and reduce) civil service retirement benefits.
Or diet COLAs (reduced cost of living adjustments) for retirees.
The white collar federal pay raise is on target to be 1.4 percent (although anything could happen) and retirees are resigned (but not so happy) that 2011 will be their second year in a row without an inflation-adjustment.
Lame duck sessions present their own problems. But a lame duck session followed by the BRAC-like deficit reduction panel report could be even trickier.
One thing that has lots of people (feds and otherwise) sweating would be recommendations to rein in Social Security costs. Normally, Social Security is untouchable, but some people are nervous that since co-chairman Alan Simpson, former Senator from Wyoming, sounded off about Social Security. He likened it to a cow with 310 million faucets. He didn’t say faucets but what he did say might be blocked by your agency filter.
Speaking of Lame Ducks
This morning at 10 a.m. on our Your Turn with Mike Causey radio show, Bill Bransford talks about what the lame duck Congress can do, and may do, to federal workers and retirees. There are proposals for a federal pay freeze and also to furlough, without pay, feds for up to two weeks next year. Bransford is general counsel of the Senior Executive Association.
From LiveScience: “Footballs used in college and high schools have white lines painted on each end; high school balls have lines all the way around while college balls paint just the top half.”
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