Senate votes for military-civilian pay parity

The Senate on Friday voted for a fiscal 2002 budget resolution that assumes an average 4.6 percent civilian and military pay raise for next year.

The Bush budget blueprint, released in early March, proposed a 4.6 percent military pay raise, but it did not include a figure for a pay raise for civilian federal employees. The Office of Management and Budget told agencies to assume an average 3.6 percent increase next year in their budget planning.

Some lawmakers, concerned that federal workers would not get the same raise as military personnel for the first time since 1987, made sure the House and Senate budget resolutions included pay parity. Last week, the House passed a budget resolution that calls for military-civilian pay parity, with a 4.6 percent average raise for all.

"We have assumed that the historic pay parity between civilian and military employees will be maintained, and that the President's proposed 4.6 percent raise for military personnel will be similarly provided to all federal workers next year," Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., praised Domenici for supporting military-civilian pay parity. "In many instances federal civilian and military employees work side-by-side doing the important work of the nation, and Congress has recognized that we should not undermine the morale of these dedicated public servants by failing to bring them in line with military personnel," he said.

Fifteen Senate Democrats voted with all 50 of the evenly divided chamber's Republicans for the fiscal 2002 budget resolution that cuts President Bush's $1.6 trillion tax cut over 10 years down to just under $1.3 trillion. The vote came after a last-ditch lobbying effort by Republican leaders and the Bush administration failed to boost the tax cut any higher.

After Thursday night's interparty trench warfare over the size of the tax cut, it stood at $1.289 trillion, according to the majority staff director of the Senate Budget Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., both declined to offer "wrap-up" amendments. For Lott, it was an acknowledgement that he could not keep his GOP Conference behind a larger tax cut. Said Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, "I think everybody just decided to do a cease fire," but he praised the "strong vote" behind a nearly $1.3 trillion tax cut. Senate Majority Whip Nickles said, "Some of us wanted a little more than that, but that's where the votes were." White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer on Friday indicated the White House no longer expects to obtain Bush's entire $1.6 trillion tax cut, but he had expressed hope the Senate would move more toward the president's number.

Fleischer pointed to the House-Senate conference on the budget resolution as an opportunity for Bush to get more in tax relief, noting that the House has already voted for the entire $1.6 trillion plan. The administration will issue a detailed budget plan on Monday that will include an official endorsement of a pay raise figure for federal workers.

With reporting by Lisa Caruso, CongressDaily, and Katy Saldarini.

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