Ever return from a vacation only to realize, as you pull into the driveway, that you left the lights on, the water in the bathtub running and the back door unlocked. And that while you cleaned out the refrigerator and bagged all the old and frozen food you left it sitting inside. In August!
Members of Congress probably won’t have such a moment when they return to work next week. But maybe they should.
Congress may have set a time-off record this year. And it’s got a couple more extended breaks coming up. Then, of course, there is Thanksgiving. And Christmas/Hanukkah.
The House and Senate will return after Labor Day. But not for long. Maybe 10 or 12 “working” days before it’s pre-election break.
The House has approved only seven of the 12 appropriations bills necessary to fund government operations after Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year. The White House has threatened to veto some, maybe all of them, because of program and people cuts the House-version would make, in key operations like the Internal Revenue Service. IRS is reshuffling just about everything as employees leave and — because of budget cuts — cannot be replaced with new hires.
While the House record is poor-to-dismal, the Senate doesn’t have a record. It hasn’t passed any of the 12 appropriations bills. Had it done so, they would no doubt be at an impasse with the House.
This time last year, most insider government talk was about the possibility of a government shutdown because Congress hadn’t done its job. The shutdown, which happened, came after many federal agencies furloughed tens of thousands of employees, some for as many as nine days. Workers in agencies that had one day per week furloughs lost 20 percent of their pay.
Last year, Congress failed to come up with a Continuing Resolution to fund the government, so parts of federal agencies, employing thousands of workers, were told to stay home. In the end, Congress voted to pay workers who had been forced to stay home, but didn’t come up with anything extra for those required to work. Instead of saving money, the shutdown probably cost agencies a lot more in lost productivity and back-pay.
The official word is that there will not be another shutdown this year. That Congress will, with the elections pending, come up with a CR that will fund agencies temporarily, possibly through the end of the year.
The next federal pay raise, if there is one, looks like it will be for 1 percent. A repeat of the 2014 increase. The military is likely to get a 1.8 percent increase, despite the tradition of giving civilian and military members of government the same percentage raise. For more on how that works, click here.
The cost of living adjustment (COLA) for federal, military and Social Security recipients is now on track to be 1.8 percent. But there are still two months (August and September) to go on the COLA countdown, so it will be mid-October before the exact amount is set.
So what’s next? On today’s, Your Turn radio show (10 a.m. EDT), our expert witnesses are Federal Drive news anchor Tom Temin and Andy Medici, senior writer for the Federal Times. Both have been following the flow of news (or not) out of Congress. They’ll tell us what’s happened, what’s likely to come down the road and what feds can expect in 2015.
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