House Republicans come out of political closet

Nine brave (and smart) Republican members of the House have decided to buck their leadership (not to mention the White House) over the issue of giving federal workers smaller pensions while requiring to pay more for those reduced annuities.

If all the proposals were enacted into law, the price tag to federal workers and retirees would be $149 billion in lost benefits over the next 10 years. Suffice to say, this potentially is a very big deal for federal workers and retirees.

Instead of looking at Washington as a swamp populated by wall-to-wall bureaucrats, the House members have looked within their own congressional districts, which have sizable numbers of federal and postal workers, all of whom are eligible to vote. They wrote a detailed letter to the House leadership, urging it to stop proposals that would force most current workers to pay as much as 6 percent more for their retirement benefits, reduce cost-of-living adjusts for retirees under the old CSRS plan and eliminate inflation-catchups, forever, for the vast majority of current workers who are under the less generous Federal Employees Retirement System.

There is also a proposal to eliminate a substantial gap payment that now goes to FERS retirees until they reach age 62 and qualify for Social Security. That can be worth thousands of dollars. Eliminating it would be especially tough, as in unfair, to law enforcement officers, federal firefighters, air traffic controllers and others who are generally required to retire no later than age 57.

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Two of the pro-fed Republican House members are from Virginia, which is chock-full of federal and military personnel. And retirees. Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.) don’t need a headcount on feds. They obviously realize how many are in their districts and how unhappy they are with the Trump administration austerity plan.

Other signers include Reps. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) and Chris Smith (R-N.J.) from, as well as Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Austin Scott (R-Ga.).

All of them have huge numbers of federal employees. But that sometimes goes unnoticed. Nobody is surprised to hear that Maryland, Virginia and D.C. have lots of feds. But Utah? It has a disproportionate number of feds, especially in places like Ogden, where the Air Force, Interior Department and the IRS are THE major employers.

North Carolina, Georgia and New Jersey also have lots of feds. For many years, the largest union in the state of Oklahoma — not what comes to mind as a fed-friendly state — was the American Federation of Government Employees. It may still be.

The letter to the House leadership stresses what many federal workers and retirees often cite — that changing the rules mid-career, or after retirement, is a moral breach of contract. That if all the changes were implemented as they have been “scored,” it would save the government more than $4 billion (with a B) in the first year, and a total of $149 billion over the next 10 years.

Looking at that in the mirror, it means that federal and postal workers and retirees — from letter carriers, to park rangers, to astronauts and NSA code-breakers — would “lose” $149 billion (again with a B) that are now due to them by law.

The breakout of the GOP nine could gather momentum. Forcing other House Republicans to consider the fairness-to-feds issue and also to check on how many of their constitutes are or were civil servants.

At best, it could revive the coalition of pro-fed Democrats and Republicans that came together during the Clinton and Bush administrations to fight the White House — regardless of who was in it — for bigger pay raises and better things for feds. Or at least to prevent big ticket takeaways.

That pretty much unraveled during the Obama years — both sides share the blame for the pay freezes, furloughs and shutdowns — but shows signs of coming back in the face of the proposed big-time cuts.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Jory Heckman

Dr. Seuss wrote the book “Green Eggs and Ham” after his publisher bet him $50 that couldn’t write a book using only 50 words.

Source: Wikipedia