Congress approves 3.5 percent civilian pay raise
Congress approved a 3.5 percent average pay increase for civilian federal workers Saturday, marking the end of a drawn-out political battle over military and civilian pay parity.
The raise was included in the fiscal 2005 omnibus appropriations bill approved by a House-Senate conference committee. House lawmakers approved the conference report on Saturday morning. The Senate approved the final version of the spending bill later the same day.
In his fiscal 2005 budget, President Bush sought a 1.5 percent average pay increase for federal workers and a 3.5 percent raise for military service members. In fiscal 2004, he also unsuccessfully proposed higher pay raises for the military. He was supported this year by a bloc of Republican lawmakers in the House who were opposed to the additional cost of a 3.5 percent civilian pay raise.
In the end, however, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers-featuring several prominent representatives from the Washington area-successfully backed 3.5 percent pay increases for both the military and civilian workforce.
President Bush is likely to divide the civilian increase between a base pay raise and locality pay differentials, which will average out to a 3.5 percent total increase across the entire workforce.The omnibus bill including the raise now goes to the White House for Bush's signature.
"I am pleased to have worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to successfully include a 3.5 percent pay adjustment for civilian federal and military employees," said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the House Democratic whip. He criticized the White House position that members of the uniformed military are more deserving of salary increases because of ongoing conflict overseas.
"With security threats at home and abroad, it is important that federal employees, more than 700,000 of whom work at the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, receive a fair pay adjustment," Hoyer said. "Many civilian federal employees, such as FBI agents, CIA agents and National Institutes of Health scientists, work with the military daily to protect our nation from terrorism and other threats. This pay adjustment rewards them for their commitment and dedication to serving our country and protecting our citizens."
Federal labor unions applauded the pay increase and the crossing of party lines that made it possible. National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley said the legislation was vital to recruiting and retaining employees.
"The higher raise would not have been possible without strong bipartisan understanding in Congress of the importance to federal agencies of competitive pay," Kelley said. "Members of Congress have come to understand that a high quality civilian workforce in federal agencies means high quality service to the American people … They also have come to understand that federal agencies are in a serious and continuing competition with the private sector for talented, dedicated employees."