Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (Agence France-Presse)
The House on Friday passed a bill that would freeze federal employees’ pay scales for the rest of 2013.
HR 273, which passed 261-154, now proceeds to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it will have a tougher chance of passing. The White House said the Obama administration opposes extending the pay freeze, but stopped short of recommending a veto.
If it becomes law, the bill would overturn an executive order President Obama signed in December that would grant federal employees a 0.5 percent pay increase at the end of March. It would mean a third year of frozen pay scales for federal employees.
Federal employee groups and friendly lawmakers — mostly Democrats — denounced the bill, saying that federal employees have already sacrificed $103 billion over a decade through the existing pay freeze and an increase in retirement contributions for newly hired feds.
Republican Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia and Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey broke with their party and denounced the bill on the House floor. In opposing the pay freeze, Wolf and LoBiondo cited the crucial work federal employees such as CIA and State Department officers do, and noted that some have lost their lives in the line of duty.
“Shame,” said LoBiondo. “That’s not what we should be about. This is wrong, and we should not do it.”
But Republican backers of a pay freeze said that the nation’s budget crunch is too dire to spend even $11 billion on a pay raise this year.
“We have to make tough decisions,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
Obama plans to propose a 1 percent pay raise for federal employees in 2014, the Washington Post reported. The American Federation of Government Employees and National Treasury Employees Union blasted that raise as inadequate after the two-plus year pay freeze.