Federal workforce reforms dropped from Senate Defense authorization bill

An amendment containing several federal workforce reforms was withdrawn on Thursday from the Senate's version of the fiscal 2010 Defense authorization bill.

Sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, the amendment would have allowed employees in the Federal Employee Retirement System to credit unused sick leave toward their retirement, and moved civilian employees outside of the continental United States into the locality pay system, among other things.

Akaka withdrew his own amendment after Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., filibustered it. "This is a good amendment," Akaka said. "I will fight for these provisions in conference, but I do not want to hold up the Defense authorization bill." The House version of the fiscal 2010 Defense authorization bill includes most of the provisions in Akaka's amendment.

Akaka's amendment also included provisions that would have: allowed FERS workers to redeposit retirement funds collected after leaving government upon returning for a second round of service and ensure both stints are credited to their overall retirement; and modified how the Civil Service Retirement System calculates annuity payments for employees who retire as part-time workers.

Coburn claimed that the amendment to the Defense authorization bill would have been an "intolerable" increase of benefits to public employees at a time when the federal budget deficit is ballooning and many Americans are unemployed.

"What we're doing is patently unfair to the rest of the American workforce in this country," Coburn said. "We're going to be here all night. Until this amendment is withdrawn, I will stay here."

Coburn said that the amendment would cost $3.2 billion from 2010 to 2019, based on scores from the Congressional Budget Office. Also citing CBO numbers, Akaka claimed that it would be a net gain for the government in the long term.

This is the second time that the Senate has killed the federal workforce reform provisions. They also were part of the tobacco bill which Congress passed earlier this summer, but were ultimately stripped out of the package because of an objection from Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.

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