Federal pay, job security, furloughs, a new TSP perk and $250 checks for retirees are all on the line.
After taking what seems like a near-record number of time-outs this year, the lame-duck Congress is back in town with lots of unfinished business to complete. Or not.
Federal (if any) pay raise. — The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the 1.4 percent January, 2011 white collar federal pay raise. But the full Senate hasn’t acted. Nor has the House Appropriations Committee. Normally if Congress fails to act, the amount proposed by the president takes effect. But there is pressure, especially on members who survived the elections, to send a message to the country: As in a federal pay freeze for up to three years, and a cut in congressional salaries.
Agency operations. — The new fiscal year started October 1, but the full House has passed only two appropriations bills dealing with Veterans Affairs and Military Construction. There are 10 appropriations bills, necessary to keep the government running, that have not yet reached the full House.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved 11 of 12 appropriations bills. Only those dealing with Interior and the Environment remain. Agencies are currently operating courtesy of a “continuing resolution” which expired Dec. 3. Unless it clears them all at a record pace (unlikely,) Congress can decide to punt: That is either approve a CR for the entire 2011 fiscal year or pass one giant “omnibus” appropriations bill (possibly loaded with pork.)
Congress is also likely to approve a one-shot $250 payment for persons who get Social Security benefits. That would cost $13 billion. That payment, which it has done before, is to make up for the fact that the retirees won’t be getting a cost of living adjustment in January 2011 because of low inflation. Feds retired under the old CSRS retirement system (which includes the majority of government retirees) aren’t guaranteed the $250 payment because they don’t qualify for Social Security.
A coalition of a dozen-plus unions and associations representing workers and retirees is working to ensure that the retired feds get the same one-shot payment.
Federal and postal workers would be able to invest their lump sum annual leave payments into the Thrift Savings Plan under a bill that has a long way to go. Currently feds can cash-in unused annual leave when they retire, where it is taxable in the year received. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has okayed it. But it still has to pass the full House and Senate.
Members of the federal family, from the youngest employee to the oldest retiree, have a lot riding on what Congress does before it again takes leave for Thanksgiving and then Christmas.
November is a time for fall crisp leaves, and people who love Peanut Butter. It is Peanut Butter Lover’s Month according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The first peanut butter sandwich was actually tasted by the public at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904.