Secret Service overtime bill passes House committee

More than 1,000 Secret Service agents tasked with protecting President Donald Trump and his family have already maxed out their overtime pay for the year, but House lawmakers are one step closer to ensuring agents get paid for every working hour.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed a bipartisan bill Wednesday that would allow the Secret Service to raise the salary and overtime pay cap from $161,900 to $187,000 for agents protecting the first family. The waiver would last until the end of 2018.

Congress passed a similar waiver in 2016 to ensure that more than 1400 Secret Service agents received all of their overtime pay during the presidential campaign.

The bill would also require the Secret Service to submit a report to Congress detailing how it plans to overhaul its hiring process to improve retention. The agency would also have to report the total cost of overtime pay, and how the money was dispersed among agents.

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“The Secret Service cannot continue to rely on excessive overtime to fix its staffing problem,” Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) said at Wednesday’s committee markup hearing. “While the pay cap waiver is a short-term fix, Congress fully intends to continue to focus on ensuring the Secret Service implements a long-term, meaningful reform to improve hiring and retention, thereby reducing the need for overtime at the agency.”

Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), the chairman of a House Homeland Security Committee panel that oversees protective security, introduced the legislation on Monday with the support of House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

“Proper funding is critical to an agency tasked with a zero-fail mission. Extending the pay cap waiver at the Secret Service ensures agents, officers and other employees are properly compensated for the critical work they perform each day,” Gowdy said in a statement.

The bill comes after Secret Service Director Randolph Alles told USA Today in August that the agency’s workforce has been struggling to keep up with an increased demand for its services under the Trump administration. The Secret Service currently protects 42 personnel under Trump — 18 are family members — compared to 31 people under the Obama administration. Trump and his family have also traveled extensively to properties he owns in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia.

“With the current administration, it is clear that Secret Service agents will continue to be overworked and underpaid after this bill’s provision expires,” Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) said.

However, the Secret Service’s staffing and retention problems have been known for years. In December 2015, the House Oversight Committee released a report that found the Secret Service’s high attrition rate left agents “significantly overworked,” and brought morale to “an all-time low.”

The estimated 1,000 agents who have already exceeded the overtime limit account for approximately one-third of the current agent workforce. Cummings said agents exceeding the overtime pay cap would likely leave the agency and contribute to its attrition rate.

“Logic just tells you, if you’re not going to get paid, you’re probably going to go somewhere else,” Cummings said. “And these people can go almost to any agency because they are held in such high esteem.”