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House approves 2013 spending bill, freezes feds' pay

Mar. 21, 2013 - 12:13PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
The 2013 spending bill sustains Customs and Border Protection staffing levels at more than 40,000 officers.
The 2013 spending bill sustains Customs and Border Protection staffing levels at more than 40,000 officers. (Getty Images)

With House approval Thursday, a bill to keep the government running through the end of September now heads to the White House to be signed by President Obama.

The bill's House approval, following Senate approval Wednesday, and its likely signing by Obama will avert a government shutdown when the current continuing resolution expires March 27.

In unwelcome news for federal employees, the bill eliminates the 0.5 percent pay raise Obama proposed for the rest of the year. As a result, federal employees' pay will be frozen for an unprecedented third year in a row.

The bill also keeps the sequester budget cuts in place.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association called the continued pay freeze a “short-sighted ploy” that will weaken the federal workforce.

“By extending the federal employee pay freeze for a third year, the House and Senate continue to use federal employees to fix a problem they didn't create,” NARFE President Joseph Beaudoin said. “Congress seems unable and unwilling to come up with anything more than the same short-sighted ploys that have dangerous real-world consequences for federal workers and the services on which Americans depend.”

The bill also:

• Gives the Defense Department more flexibility to manage its sequester budget cuts by shifting $10.4 billion into military operations and maintenance accounts.

• Sustains Customs and Border Protection staffing levels at more than 40,000 officers.

• Reallocates funding at the Agriculture Department to avoid furloughs for meat and poultry plant inspectors. It also provides Agriculture an additional $12.8 million to enact the Food Safety Modernization Act, which the Senate Appropriations Committee called the first major reform of food safety laws in 70 years.

• Adds $19 million in funding for cybersecurity.

• Adds $71 million to research cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and other diseases.

The spending measure passed the House 318-109. The House made no changes from the version the Senate passed Wednesday.

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