The surprise — some would say daring — legislative blueprint designed to build a 3.3 percent raise next year for pay-starved feds has one political flaw that could slow, if not kill it.
The bill is missing one important letter which must be added before it can win approval in the House. The magic letter.
That would be the letter R.
As in Republican. In other words a Republican cosponsor. Since Republicans control the House (and are likely to continue to do so after the November elections), having someone from the majority would seem like a no- brainer. Instead…
The bill unveiled Wednesday was announced and proposed by three Democrats. Reps. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, Jim Moran also from Virginia and Elijah Cummings of Maryland. They represent three of the five congressional districts with the largest concentration of federal workers. So, backing a federal pay raise is not likely to earn them a mention in any revised edition of “Profiles In Courage.” Especially in an election year when politicians go out of their way to make as many voters as possible happy with federal dollars.
In the last five years, federal workers were either under a pay freeze or the beneficiaries of a 1 percent pay adjustment. President Obama proposed a two-year pay freeze and Congress happily extended it to three years. So in the last five years, many federal workers have enjoyed a total 2 percent raise, even though most things — including mandatory health insurance premiums — went up a lot more.
For years, federal workers enjoyed bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. When President Clinton came to Washington, he and his advisers were shocked at what they considered high federal pay. In his first year in office, he proposed feds receive no pay raise. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) rallied Democrats and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) took care of rounding up GOP votes. They repeatedly did an end run around the White House, scoring bigger raises than the President proposed. When George W. Bush came in, they reversed the playbook, with Wolf taking the lead and Hoyer rounding up Democrats. (Hoyer’s chief operative was a young man named John Berry who later was named head of the Office of Personnel Management. Today’s he’s U.S. Ambassador to Australia.)
During that same time period, the House committee that handled most federal employee affairs operated smoothly between Reps. Henry Waxman (D- Calif.) and Tom Davis (R-Va.) when they alternated the chairmanship. That’s not the way the committee works today.
It would be better for a lot of people — federal workers, ordinary citizens, the military, most of us — if partisan politicians learned to bury the hatchet, just not in each others’ heads. Maybe starting with something as modest as a long-overdue federal pay raise.
The term “booby trab” derives from the Spanish word “bobo,” meaning “fool” or “naive.” One of the earliest known uses of the term came in an 1868 article in Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Arts.
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