Update: July 31, 2:30 p.m.
The House passed fiscal year 2021 appropriations legislation Friday that did not include provisions for a federal pay raise next year, a House Democrat’s aide confirmed to Federal Times.
The bill, passed on exclusively Democrat votes, combines six of the traditional appropriations bills into one minibus, and does include a 3 percent increase for members of the military. If Congress fails to specify a pay raise for federal employees, that authority falls to the president, who determines how much to increase federal pay, if at all.
President Donald Trump has signaled that he plans to grant a one percent increase to feds, though that proposal was released before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
General funding legislation for the 2021 fiscal year will be considered by the full House Committee on Appropriations without provisions for a federal employee pay increase.
The Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government voted to favorably report the bill that makes funding provisions for financial services and the general government to the full committee July 8.
The general government appropriations bill is typically the vehicle for establishing a congressionally mandated federal pay increase, and the same legislation included a 2.6 percent basic pay increase at this point last year.
If Congress does not ultimately elect to mandate increases for basic and locality pay, the decision is deferred to the White House, where President Donald Trump has indicated that he plans to grant feds a 1 percent increase in exchange for changes to the federal benefits package.
The current version of the general government appropriations bill is not the last word on federal pay, however, as members could opt to add an amendment impacting federal pay during later committee or floor consideration of the bill, not to mention the Senate consideration process for the bill.
Last month, a Senate panel approved an increase to military pay by 3 percent, and federal advocates in Congress have frequently fought for civilian pay increases to match those of the military.
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., introduced a bill earlier this year to increase federal pay by 3.5 percent, in order to “right the wrongs from furloughs, sequestration and pay freezes.”
But federal employee groups worry that not outlining a pay increase specifically in funding legislation will leave feds behind in compensation.
“Federal workers continue to make outstanding contributions and sacrifices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many continue to face a greater risk of infection due to their civil jobs,” National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association National President Ken Thomas said in a statement.
“But House appropriators decided to ignore those contributions, look the other way, and defer their authority over federal pay to the president, risking a minimal pay increase or even a pay freeze for our nation’s dedicated public servants. It shows an unfortunate lack of respect for public service at time when we need that more than ever.”
Federal pay increases have been generally well supported in times of economic stability, with pay freezes historically occurring during recessions or economic hardship. But the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent business closures have put the economy on uncertain footing.
Though it does not address federal pay, the bill does maintain prohibitions against studies or competitions that would convert federal work to contractors, and it ensures that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients are eligible for federal employment.
Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.