President Obama speaks at a Sept. 22 campaign event in Milwaukee, Wisc. (Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images)
The Senate on Saturday passed a six-month temporary spending bill that will keep the federal government open — and further freeze employees’ pay scales — through March 27.
President Obama is expected to sign the continuing resolution bill sometime this week, before the fiscal 2012 budget expires Sept. 30. The House passed its version of the bill, which keeps funding the government at essentially 2012 levels, on Sept. 13.
Federal employees’ pay scales have already been frozen throughout 2011 and 2012, and the two-year freeze was set to expire in January 2013. But Obama last month proposed extending the pay scale freeze until Congress passes an actual budget for fiscal 2013. Obama said the pay freeze should take effect at the time of the actual budget’s passage and not be retroactive to January.
The two leading federal employee unions — the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union — have both denounced the government’s decision to extend the pay freeze, and have pledged to lobby Congress to make next year’s pay raise retroactive to January 2013.
“Already, the two-year pay freeze on federal employees will contribute $60 billion to address our fiscal challenges, while our nation’s wealthiest corporations and individuals have not been asked to contribute,” NTEU National President Colleen Kelley said in a statement.
The $1.047 trillion spending bill would add 0.6 percent to 2012’s spending levels. The House Appropriations Committee said those small increases “are needed to prevent catastrophic, irreversible, or detrimental changes to government programs, or to ensure good government and program oversight.” Those increases include more money to Customs and Border Protection to maintain its current level of officers and Border Patrol agents;the Veterans Benefits Administration to handle an increase in the disability claims workload; and the Interior Department and Forest Service to fight wildfires.