The great divide settles between the House and Senate come January, making for a difficult next two years for Congress and President Barack Obama. Engineering the biggest party turnover in more than 70 years, Republicans have taken control of the House. The Senate remains in Democratic hands, although Republicans gained several seats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada retained his seat.
Federal News Radio takes a look at where things stand and what the changes may mean for federal employees.
Federal Pay Raise
Congress has yet to approve a federal pay raise for FY 2011. Senior Correspondent Mike Causey has reported the 1.4 percent pay raise proposed by President Obama may be increased to give you the same 1.9 percent due the military.
Susan Crabtree, senior editor at the Hill tells Federal News Radio she doesn’t expect to see much of a raise for feds in the future, if any. “I really think that you’re going to see a real push to keep spending stagnant and that could effect…people’s pay raises in the government (and keep them) at a static level.”
Meanwhile, the change in the Employment Cost Index was 1.6 percent in 2010. That figure could become the basis for the president’s raise recommendation to be included in the 2012 budget proposal.
Currently under consideration: H.R.6134, a bill forcing two weeks of unpaid leave on full-time federal employees.
Bill Bransford, general counsel of the Senior Executives Association, tells Federal News Radio the proposal to furlough feds “very serious.” He said, “Part of the idea of the furlough is to save money and send out this symbolic idea that federal employees are doing their share.”
Hiring Freeze/Workforce Reductions
In the GOP’s Pledge to America, a “net hiring freeze on non-security federal employees” and an overall reduction in the size of government is promised.
Bills in both chambers, reports GovExec, “would cap the federal workforce through attrition or by allowing agencies to hire only one employee for every two employees who leave.”
Unions are obviously politically connected,
Bill Bransford said. “With the administration being Democratic, there’s going to be tremendous pressure from the unions to protect those jobs, so where will cuts be made, if anywhere?”
Federal Health Care
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee spokeswoman Leslie Phillips tells GovExec, “legislation extending benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees is likely to be on next year’s agenda, in addition to issues like homegrown terror, cybersecurity legislation, reform of the Federal Protective Service, and oversight of border security and emergency preparedness.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., will no longer be majority leader. Hoyer, notes GovExec, “has been an advocate for federal workers’ concerns, and union leaders have said a leadership change could affect the tone of the conversation about the government workforce or even invite attacks on federal employees.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., assumes the chairmanship of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The AP’s Jerry Bodlander told Federal News Radio that while Issa will “have subpoena power and there have been noises that he would haul in a lot of administration officials, right now the indication is that he wants to focus on getting rid of waste, fraud and abuse as part of the effort to cut down on government spending.”
Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah would take over the subcommittee tasked with overseeing the federal workforce and U.S. Postal Service.
Bob Cusack, managing editor of The Hill, told Federal News Radio Republicans across the Capitol, “say that we should go back to the spending levels of the pre-stimulus, pre-bailout. So let’s go back to the 2008 spending limits that they had back then and that would save close to a billion dollars.”
However, noted Cusack, Republicans “may not want to have that big price tag of a major appropriations bill when they’re controlling Congress, so there may be incentive for them to let the Democrats pass it as long as it’s not a major increase in funding so that when they start the new Congress, they wouldn’t have to pass such a big bill as one of the first things they do.”
The AP’s Jerry Bodlander wonders that even if that does happen and the House passes a budget, “then what does the Senate do? We’re in uncharted territory here as far as spending and a lot of other things are concerned.”
One-Time Social Security Payment Option
H.R. 5987 would provide a $250 one-time social security payment.
Last year, social security recipients received a $250 check and retired feds who were not eligible for the check received a $250 tax credit. This year, Dan Adcock, legislative director for National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, told Federal News Radio that with anti-fed sentiment high, a check or tax credit are not guaranteed.
‘Fed Friendly’ Congressmen
Jim Moran, D-Va. — Moran beat challenger Patrick Murray, a retired Army colonel. Moran currently serves on the House Appropriations Committee and will likely stay on that committee. Moran has also been very vocal about the BRAC changes and the impact on traffic in northern Virginia.
Gerry Connolly, D-Va. — Connolly’s race against challenger Keith Fimian has yet to be decided. At last report, each is carrying 49 percent of the votes. Connolly has been an avid supporter of federal workers and retirees rights and has been involved in promoting what he calls “the value and necessity of federal service.”
Steny Hoyer, D-Md. (See “Congressional Committees” above.) — Hoyer won his race but will lose his title of House Majority Leader after Republicans gained a majority in the House.