The move is significant, because it represents the first time in about eight years since Congress has attempted to propose an alternative to the president’s initial pay recommendation for federal employees for the following year.
The proposal, however, still has a long way to go through the standard congressional process before federal employees have a chance of seeing a 1.9 percent raise next year.
Congress has multiple opportunities to suggest and pass an alternative to the president’s proposed pay freeze during the appropriations process.
The full Senate appropriations committee is scheduled to consider the financial services bill Thursday morning. After members approve the bill, it will go to the Senate floor for votes.
“As we know, the history of this bill getting to the floor has not been good,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee, said Tuesday. “The hope is to be able to actually get this to the floor, do the amendment process and be able to work it … all the way through.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), the appropriations subcommittee ranking member, said Tuesday he was particularly pleased to see a 1.9 percent raise for civilian employees.
News of the Senate subcommittee’s proposal earned praise from the National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) Association.
“We urge the full committee to maintain this raise in the final legislation,” NARFE National President Richard Thissen said in a statement. “Approval of this modest raise by the full Congress would prevent the President from implementing a pay freeze in 2019, an intention he has stated. A pay freeze demonstrates disdain for public service and diminishes the value of the dedicated work that federal employees perform on behalf of the American people.”
The House Appropriations Committee, however, didn’t mention federal pay in its version of the financial services and general government bill, which members passed last week.
The House bill does not offer an alternative to the White House’s proposal, and the full House has yet to vote on the financial services and general government appropriation.
The White House could also change course. The president has until Aug. 31 to determine federal pay for the following year. Trump has not yet officially set pay for 2019, and that announcement typically comes on or near the final deadline.
An annual across-the-board pay adjustment formula in the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act typically sets raises for most federal employees under the General Schedule. The president can choose to differ from this formula, which he often does.
Both the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union also praised the Senate subcommittee’s pay proposal.
“This is welcome news for the men and women of the civil service who secure our nation, safeguard our economy and protect the public health,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said in a statement. “At a time when private sector salaries are increasing, and military personnel are on track for an earned pay increase, we applaud Congress for recognizing that government employees also deserve a pay raise.”
The Senate appropriations subcommittee also recommended a $75 million increase in base funding for the IRS. It also dedicated $77 million to help the agency implement the provisional changes of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.