Between the recent budget battle and the current fight over the payroll tax cut extension, former Virginia Congressman Tom Davis says “federal employees are getting hit hard.”
The House voted yesterday to disapprove a Senate bill that would have extended the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance for two months. Instead, the House wants a conference with the Senate to work out differences between the two chambers’ bills.
In the original House bill passed last week, an extended freeze on federal pay and an increase to annual pension contributions were used to help pay for the extension. Whether that will be a part of any final compromise is still up for debate.
“Something’s got to give and the federal employees are right in the crosshairs,” Davis said in an interview with The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris.. “What you need, though, is a broad-based agreement, where you don’t have any one segment that gets picked on, whether it’s millionaires, whether it’s federal employees, whether it’s entitlement programs. You’re going to need a broad-based solution to this, which means both parties are going to have to compromise and stick it to their base a little bit to get the kind of agreement we need to get out of this.”
Davis, now the director of governmental affairs with Deloitte and Touche, said federal employees’ precarious position is just a political matter. The anger that people feel toward the federal government relates to the laws passed by Congress and not the federal workforce.
“I think that the biggest asset we have in the federal space is our employee base,” Davis said. “We need to continue to train them and reward them accordingly.”
That being said, Davis cautioned federal employees that in times of tight budgets, everyone is going to have to take a hit if the country hopes to right itself in the next few years.
The pressure for most congressmen comes in positioning themselves for primary elections, Davis said, where toeing-the-line and sticking to party principles are more important than in the general election. “The House, I think, has been a little less flexible in terms of what they’re willing to entertain,” he said.
According to Davis, members of Congress are back home with their families and constituents, waiting to see how this plays out in the press. Despite the fact that both chambers are in recess, members could still resolve the matter before the end of the year with a unanimous consent agreement.
“The party that is getting creamed, generally, will make some kind of concession and yield,” Davis said. “But at this point, it’s pretty high stakes. It’s a stare down. Neither side looks like they’re going to move.”
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-8 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.