Update: Jan. 30, 2:15 p.m.
In a 259 to 161 vote, the House passed legislation that would provide for an across-the-board, 2.6 percent federal civilian employee pay raise.
If passed by the Senate, the legislation would counteract a federal pay freeze instituted by President Donald Trump in late 2018, which Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., called “insulting and embarrassing” on top of the impacts already imposed by the government shutdown.
The bill also includes three amendments that clarify the pay raise’s applicability to certain employees at the IRS, NASA and the Secret Service.
Republican congressmen attempted to bring the legislation back to committee for consideration, saying that the bill did not go through normal order and that not all employees deserve a pay raise.
“Everybody doesn’t deserve a pay raise all the time,” said Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., adding that the legislation makes “no effort to reward the high performers and train up the low performers.”
Such efforts to recommit the bill failed, however, and the legislation now moves on the Senate, where a companion bill has already received Democratic support.
“Our federal workforce protects our nation, ensures the safety of our food and medicine, delivers Social Security and veterans’ benefits and carries out countless other responsibilities on behalf of our citizens. President Trump’s shutdown just stranded more than 800,000 of these men and women without pay for over a month — at the same time that the Trump Pay Freeze took effect. Now more than ever, they deserve this cost of living adjustment to help make ends meet,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who led the introduction of the Senate bill, in a statement.
“I was proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass a 1.9 percent pay raise in the Senate prior to the government shutdown, and in light of the added costs imposed on federal workers by the shutdown, I urge my colleagues to support this modest 2.6 percent raise.”
The House Rules Committee in an eight-to-four vote moved to forward legislation that would give federal employees a 2.6 percent pay increase for 2019.
“They deserve better than what they’ve gotten over the last several weeks. They deserve a raise,” said Committee Chair Jim McGovern, D-Mass., at the committee hearing on the bill.
The legislation would increase federal civilian pay by the same percentage as the increase the military received in the 2019 defense spending package.
Republican members of the committee criticized the bill’s movement to a House floor vote without regular order, including a hearing in the committee of relevant jurisdiction and financial scoring by the Congressional Budget Office.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said that while he had “considerable sympathy” for what the bill was trying to accomplish, the lack of a standard process kept the bill from effectively addressing the actual needs of the federal workforce.
“This bill neither fixes the hardships they’re facing, nor adjusts reforms in a meaningful way in a long-term basis,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-S.C.
Some Republican members called for looking at a complete overhaul of the civil service system to address pay inequality, rather than instituting a blanket pay raise across the board.
“We don’t pretend 2.6 somehow solves all of our problems, but we’ve got to start somewhere,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.
“For a crowd that can’t keep government open, what are our chances of overhauling the civil service system in a way that would be efficacious?”
According to Connolly, the bill also has a generic CBO evaluation that places its cost between $5.5 billion and $6 billion per year.
However, as the legislation only adds an additional .5 percent increase to the statutory formula that would have given feds a 2.1 percent increase, the actual increased cost is only somewhere around $1 billion, according to Connolly.
President Donald Trump instituted a civilian employee pay freeze in late 2018 that remains in effect unless Congress acts through legislation to countermand it.
As the legislation moves on to the House floor for consideration, where a vote is expected Wednesday, Senate legislators introduced a companion bill Jan. 29 that would institute the same pay increase for federal employees.
“Federal workers have shown during this historic shutdown how invaluable they are to the daily functioning of our nation. They should be compensated accordingly,” said bill co-sponsor Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., In a statement.
“Congressional approval of a small increase in pay, comparable to what has been granted to our service members, would be a helpful measure in restoring faith in a system that left them in financial limbo for a record 35 days.”