President Joe Biden’s proposed 2.7 percent pay increase for federal employees advanced a step June 24, when a House appropriations subcommittee voted favorably to move along a funding bill that backs the president’s recommended amount.
The Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government also voted to support Biden’s budget request for the Office of Personnel Management and proposed slightly more for the IRS than the president suggested.
The bill, in fact, made no mention of federal pay, which is an administrative move that Congress uses when members want to defer to the amount the White House has promised. This was the method by which federal employees received a 1 percent pay increase for 2021.
And though some Congress members have proposed higher pay increases for feds next year, Democrats may decide to yield to Biden’s proposed number in order to focus their negotiations on other topics.
The bill mirrors Biden’s $372 million fiscal 2022 budget request for the Office of Personnel Management, which would include a $42 million increase to help the agency modernize IT systems and better offer human resources services to other agencies.
The modest increase for the IRS over what Biden requested, The House bill’s $13.6 billion would help the agency improve taxpayer services, expand enforcement capabilities, update legacy IT systems and work toward increased program integrity in administering taxes.
And though the IRS has repeatedly stated that such investments are essential for the agency to perform its mission adequately, not all members of Congress support the increase.
“While I believe that the IRS could use some more resources, the bill provides them with nearly $1.7 billion, or 14 percent, more [than in FY2021]. It wasn’t too long ago that the IRS was targeting groups based on political beliefs and wasting taxpayer money on lavish conferences, inappropriate videos and employee bonuses,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., at the June 24 bill markup, referencing 2013 government and media reports of the agency holding an expensive training conference in California and targeting conservative groups for greater tax scrutiny.
Womack also took issue with the $10.4 billion the budget would grant to the General Services Administration’s Federal Buildings Fund for building alterations and consolidations. “I was hoping the lessons learned during the pandemic would lead to savings in office space and travel expenses, not more spending.”
The expenditures, which also cover government vehicles, are designed to make the federal footprint more environmentally friendly, such as a $300 million investment to make the federal fleet more electric and low emission.
The bill would also make immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program eligible for federal employment, opening up a new hiring stream for agencies that almost always must hire U.S. citizens. The Obama-era program allows those people to continue living in the U.S. when they were brought to the country as children.
Perhaps most controversially, the House funding legislation would eliminate provisions in federal law preventing the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program insurers from providing coverage of abortion services for federal employees and their families.
Congressional Republicans have aggressively defended that prohibition, along with an existing ban on Washington, D.C., government funds from being used to cover abortion services.
And though close to Biden’s vision for federal spending in 2022, the legislation is likely to go through several revisions, as it faces full committee markup in both the House and Senate, floor votes for each chamber and reconciliation, should the House and Senate differ on the contents of the bills they pass.
Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.