Lawmakers caution super committee to leave federal pay and benefits alone

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House Democrats are asking the deficit reduction super committee to protect the federal workforce from further attacks on their pay and benefits.

In a report sent this week to the commission charged with reining in government spending, lawmakers from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wrote that cuts affecting federal employees should be avoided in any deficit reduction proposal. Instead, the super committee should reform compensation for government contractors, they said.

"Further cuts to federal employee compensation, benefits or workforce size will negatively impact recruitment and retention and substantially degrade agency performance," the report stated. "The hardworking men and women in the federal workforce provide vital services to the nation, and it is critical to ensure their continued ability to provide these services in an effective and efficient manner."

In a deficit reduction plan issued in September, President Obama recommended capping the reimbursement for contractors' executive salaries to the Executive Schedule Level 1 pay, currently about $200,000. The super committee should extend this cap to cover all federal contractors, lawmakers wrote.

The report also recommended that the super committee adopt a proposal that would streamline pharmacy benefits available under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program by allowing the Office of Personnel Management to negotiate prices for all program participants.

The super committee also should adopt an administration proposal to restructure the U.S. Postal Service's obligation to prepay its retiree health benefits and refund a $6.9 billion overpayment to the agency's Federal Employees Retirement System account, lawmakers wrote. Lawmakers expressed opposition to an administration recommendation to create a panel charged with developing with recommendations to modernize federal personnel policies and practices, including reforms to pay, mobility and performance. The congressional committees responsible for these issues already provide sufficient oversight, they wrote.

The American Federation of Government Employees on Thursday applauded the report, saying federal workers have sacrificed enough with a two-year pay freeze and the looming potential for job cuts.

The National Treasury Employees Union also expressed support. "This plan represents a common sense approach to deficit reduction that recognizes the sacrifices federal employees have already made," NTEU President Colleen Kelley said.

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