House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer speaks during a news conference in December 2012. Hoyer told Federal Times that continuing to take money only from federal employees is an unfair and unwise personnel policy. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, who represents thousands of federal employees in his Maryland district, said Friday that he is open to further cuts to federal pay and benefits if they are part of a comprehensive deficit reduction plan.
But Hoyer strongly rejected any deficit reduction plan that targets federal employees without asking others to sacrifice as well.
“If we have a big package and everybody’s doing their share, federal employees are prepared to do their share,” Hoyer said. “They’ve already done a very substantial share. But if the only pocket that the Republicans are looking to — or the Democrats for that matter — is the federal pocket, I’m going to adamantly oppose that.”
A coalition of groups representing federal employees and U.S. Postal Service workers said in December that federal employees have already contributed $103 billion to deficit reduction over a decade through more than two years without a pay-scale increase, and through increased pension contributions by employees hired beginning in 2013.
Republican lawmakers are pushing to extend the pay freeze — which is now scheduled to expire at the end of March — through at least the end of 2013. Republicans have also proposed increasing the amount all federal employees contribute to their pensions, or basing their pensions on the average of their five-highest salaries instead of the current three-highest salaries.
Hoyer did not oppose the pay freeze when President Obama proposed it in 2010, but said that continuing to take money only from federal employees is an unfair and unwise personnel policy. Doing so could prompt many federal employees to retire, he said, and risks hollowing out the federal workforce.
“When I talk to good friends of mine who represent federal employees, I say, ‘Look, we’ve got a fiscal crisis in front of us, and we’ve got to be part of a solution,’” Hoyer said.
The fiscal cliff deal struck New Years Day restored the Clinton-era tax rates for people making more than $400,000 annually. Hoyer said that won’t raise enough tax revenue, and said a balanced approach to deficit reduction should also raise taxes for people making $250,000 to $400,000. Hoyer said he would prefer the Clinton-era rates for all, but said tax increases for people making less than $250,000 annually should wait until at least next year.
Hoyer also said Congress will not start considering a bill reforming the struggling Postal Service for at least two months. Budgetary matters such as sequestration and the continuing resolution — which will expire at the end of March — will keep Congress occupied until then. Hoyer said postal reform could include ending Saturday delivery.