Pay raise moves forward

The Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday approved a 4.6 percent pay raise for federal employees in fiscal 2002, just one day after the full House approved the same raise.

The committee approved the pay raise as part of a $17.1 billion fiscal year 2002 spending bill covering the Treasury Department and the White House. The House passed the fiscal 2002 Treasury-Postal appropriations bill, (H.R. 2590), which contained language approving the raise, on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Bush administration issued a statement opposing the 4.6 percent increase, arguing that it "would divert critical resources from programs across the government." The administration proposed a 3.6 percent raise for civilian federal employees in its fiscal 2002 budget.

The legislation, which was approved by a unanimous 29-0 vote, provides an increase of about $1.2 billion over fiscal 2001 and $440 million above the request.

The Senate committee put off voting on controversial aspects of the bill, including Cuba travel and federal employee abortion coverage, until the bill reaches the floor. An amendment to be introduced by Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, would prohibit the federal employee health plan from covering abortions.

DeWine characterized the language as "routine" and usually decided on a voice-vote, but Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., an opponent of the language and emboldened by her party's new status in the majority, said she would not permit a voice vote on it this year. She said, however, that she would be willing to agree to a time limit on debate.

In addition to the 4.6 percent pay increase for federal civilian employees, the bill includes $22 million to combat terrorists trying to enter the United States along its northern borders and language to require a monthly assessment monitoring how well Internal Revenue Service offices deal with tax information requests. A recent report from the inspector general's office at the agency showed substantial inadequacies in how the IRS treats requests, according to Treasury and General Government Subcommittee Chairman Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the appropriation a "placeholder" for a larger amount if Congress can complete work on a reform bill before the Treasury-Postal spending bill is signed into law.

Among the bill's major accounts:

  • $821 million for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and increase of about $18 million over the President's request and $40 million over fiscal 2001.
  • $899 million for the Secret Service, an increase of $42 million above the request and $75 million over what was appropriated in fiscal 2001.
  • $477 million for General Services Administration construction.
  • $3.79 billion for IRS processing and management accounts and $3.53 billion for IRS enforcement.
  • $226.35 million for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, an increase of $20 million over the request and fiscal 2001.
  • $25 million for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is about the same as the request and about $400 million over fiscal 2001.
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