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Obama Pushed Dems on Retirement Contributions

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Susan Walsh/AP

If you find yourself wondering why congressional Democrats went along with a plan to boost retirement contributions for new federal employees to help pay for an extension of benefits for unemployed workers, consider this section of National Journal's report on the deal:

For his part, President Obama reportedly weighed in on the measure last night, calling wavering Democratic lawmakers who were resisting the costs being imposed on federal workers. He got them to agree, showing how eager the White House is not to see payroll taxes go up.

Update 2/17/12, 10:32 a.m.: The Washington Post has more detail on this today:

Two] Maryland Democrats on the conference committee, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, ... had been holding out support because of tough new contribution requirements for all federal workers to their pension plans.

Obama weighed in with a call from Air Force One to each lawmaker, hungry for a victory on two pieces of jobs legislation that he requested back in September. The Marylanders refused to give in until Obama, along with Baucus and Camp, agreed to shield current federal employees from the increased pension contribution.

In a joint statement Thursday, Cardin and Van Hollen still complained about the hit to new federal workers but endorsed the plan: “We are pleased that we were able to ensure that this agreement has no negative impact on current federal employees, but we still strongly oppose the provision that raises $15 billion to help offset the cost of this package from future workers,” they said.

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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