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News briefs: Week of July 22

Jul. 21, 2013 - 02:49PM   |  
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House bill silent on 2014 pay raise

The House Appropriations Committee did not include funding for President Obama’s proposed 1 percent federal pay increase in a 2014 spending bill approved last week, setting the stage for a possible clash with the Senate, whose budget draft includes the proposed raise.

The House bill, which covers “general government” functions, has been a standard vehicle for past pay raises; the committee, which is working under tight budget caps, has not included funding for the proposed increase in any of the other 2014 spending bills passed thus far, a spokeswoman said.

The omission is “very concerning,” said Cory Bythrow, a spokesman for the National Federation of Federal Employees.

“The battle lines are still being drawn on this one on the Hill.”

Federal base pay scales have been frozen since 2011.

The House spending bill also renews a longstanding requirement for the U.S. Postal Service to continue Saturday mail delivery.

Senate confirms new Labor, EPA secretaries

The Senate last week confirmed Thomas Perez to be the next Labor secretary in a 54-to-46 vote.

Before his confirmation, Perez led the Justice Department’s civil rights division and was previously Maryland’s labor secretary.

“At the Department of Labor, Tom will help us continue to grow our economy, help businesses create jobs, make sure workers have the skills those jobs require and ensure safe workplaces and economic opportunity for all,” President Obama said in a statement.

The Senate also confirmed Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency in a 59-to-40 vote.

Before confirmation, she was assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

“ Gina is a proven leader who knows how to build bipartisan support for common sense environmental solutions that protect the health and safety of our kids while promoting economic growth,” Obama said in a statement.

Lawmakers introduce bills to transform government

Agencies would move to a two-year budget cycle, consolidate duplicate programs and slash travel spending by 50 percent under a series of bills introduced in both the House and the Senate last week by the No Labels Caucus, a bipartisan group of 81 lawmakers.

The legislation would:

■ Withhold pay from members of Congress unless both chambers are able to pass a budget before the start of the fiscal year.

■ Encourage agencies to expand strategic sourcing efforts.

■ Remove automatic adjustments for inflation in agency budgeting.

■ Push the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs Department to speed up efforts to combine electronic health records.

■ Push agencies to expand their use of public-private partnerships to increase building energy efficiency.

■ Create a bipartisan commission that would oversee efforts to streamline federal agencies and identify wasteful programs.

The No Labels Caucus includes 73 lawmakers from the House and eight members of the Senate.

Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., said the legislation shows that the two parties can work together on common-sense legislation.

“It is a first step, but a big step in the right direction for us to come together like this to save tens of billions of dollars,” Griffin said.

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