10 House Republicans and 18 senators speak out against federal retirement cuts

More members of Congress are voicing their concerns for recent fiscal 2018 budget proposals that could make significant changes to the federal retirement system for current and future employees and retirees.

Ten House Republicans are appealing to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the leader of the committee that’s been tasked to develop legislative proposals that would reduce the federal deficit by $32 billion over 10 years through reforms to civil service pensions.

“No one needs to remind us of the deficit and debt problem our nation faces, but federal employees are an easy political target,” the 10 members wrote in a July 26 letter. “In more ways than one, they have already repeatedly given at the office. Therefore, we respectfully request that reject any further legislative changes to the federal employee retirement system at this time.”

Meanwhile, 18 senators, nearly all of them Democrats, also wrote to their chamber’s leadership this week.

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“These proposed changes, if enacted, would significantly harm the retirement plans that our federal employees have made over the course of decades in public service,” the senators wrote in a July 26 letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “In addition, they would further hamper the federal government’s ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest talent, particularly when we are concerned about brain drain in critical areas of our civilian workforce.”

The signatures on the Senate letter shouldn’t come as a major surprise.

Both Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) added their names to the letter.

Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), along with Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also signed it.

The letter from House lawmakers to Gowdy comes may hold more gravitas. Their message comes after nine of the 10 members wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in June to express their opposition.

All nine of the House members who wrote to Ryan in June also added their names to the latest letter. But Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) added his name as well, making him the 10th House Republican to voice his concerns — at least in writing — to proposed cuts to federal retirement.

The July letter reads almost verbatim to the members’ June letter to Ryan and McCarthy.

But this time, the lawmakers make reference to several fiscal 2018 budget proposals that suggest a variety of changes to the federal retirement system for both current employees and future ones.

The House Budget Committee’s 2018 request includes instructions for budget reconciliation, which tasks the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to make changes to the federal retirement system.

Those proposals will call for higher contributions to their federal pensions and the removal of supplemental Social Security payments to employees who retire before age 62.

“This would achieve significant savings while recognizing the need for new federal employees to transition to a defined contribution retirement system,” the House budget blueprint said. “The vast majority of private sector employees participate in defined contribution retirement plans. These plans put the ownership, flexibility, and portfolio risk on the employee as opposed to the employer. Similarly, federal employees would have more control over their own retirement security under this option.”

The House Budget Committee’s resolution calls for proposals that are similar, but slightly different from the recommendations included in President Donald Trump’s own 2018 budget request.

The president proposed cuts to federal retirement worth $4.1 billion next year, for a total of about $150 billion over 10 years — a significantly higher task than the House Budget Committee’s recommendation.

But both the Trump administration and many House Republicans see these changes as a way to realize new cost savings — and bring the generous federal retirement package in line with the private sector.

Nearly 100 House Democrats already voiced their own opposition to such proposals in a letter to Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).