Dems back spending plan that would bring 2.2 percent raise

Democrats announced Monday they plan to enact a continuing resolution for the duration of the fiscal year instead of passing new spending bills, meaning federal employees will receive the 2.2 percent pay raise that President Bush submitted Nov. 30.

Versions of the Transportation-Treasury appropriations bill included a 2.7 percent raise for civilian employees instead. There was no promise that figure would have made it to the president's desk, since Congress approved a 2.2 percent raise for the military, which traditionally receives the same or higher than civilians.

But the possibility of a higher raise is now significantly lessened.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said the union will still push lawmakers for the 2.7 percent raise when the new Congress convenes in January.

Democrats said they plan to enact a continuing resolution for the duration of fiscal 2007, after Republicans gave up on passing individually the nine appropriations bills covering the domestic portion of the federal budget.

In its final hours Friday, Congress passed a stopgap measure running through Feb. 15, and the incoming chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees said they would simply extend the measure out rather than attempting to pass the leftover fiscal 2007 spending bills.

President Bush is expected to submit his fiscal 2008 budget and a new supplemental spending request for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in early February.

"It is important that we clear the decks quickly so that we can get to work on the American people's priorities, the president's anticipated war funding request, and a new budget," incoming House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., and Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said in a joint statement. "After discussions with our colleagues, we have decided to dispose of the Republican budget leftovers by passing a year-long joint resolution ... we must turn the page on the Republican failures and work together in the best interests of the American people."

Obey and Byrd said they would make "limited adjustments" in that GOP-written CR to address important policy priorities, but that the extended version would have none of the earmarks contained in the remaining fiscal 2007 spending bills. The Democrats said they were placing a "moratorium" on all earmarks until reforms are put in place.

"We will work to restore an accountable, above-board, transparent process for funding decisions and put an end to the abuses that have harmed the credibility of Congress," they said. Only two fiscal 2007 spending bills have been signed into law, the Defense and Homeland Security measures.

That leaves about $463 billion in unfinished agency budgets that will be funded under a yearlong CR. Obey and Byrd noted the last time all the spending bills were completed separately and on time was 1994 -- the last year of Democratic control of Congress.

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