GOP considers longer pay freeze

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky leads the GOP in the Senate. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky leads the GOP in the Senate. Chris Maddaloni/Newscom
Senate Republicans are considering an extension of the pay freeze for federal civilian workers to pay for a payroll tax cut, according to Wednesday news reports.

The plan reportedly would continue the current two-year pay freeze which runs through 2012 for one or two more years, according to a story in Politico. The publication attributed the information to a GOP senator but said an aide to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would not confirm a further pay freeze was the preferred option under consideration to pay for the payroll tax cut extension.

The Obama administration supports extending the payroll tax holiday. A longer pay freeze for federal workers could save $100 billion, according to Politico. The pay freeze might be combined with a means testing plan to curb Social Security and Medicare benefits for individuals earning more than $1 million annually, the story said.

In addition, reducing the government workforce through attrition also is under consideration as a way to pay for the payroll tax cut extension, The Hill newspaper reported. Similar to legislation the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed in early November, the plan would hire one worker for every three employees who leave service.

Federal employee advocates were not happy about the possibility of an extended civilian pay freeze. "This proposal makes clear that Senate Republicans stand firmly on the side of the wealthiest Americans and are turning their backs on middle class families," said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. "Federal employees are already under a two-year pay freeze. Continually freezing federal pay farther and farther into the future and cutting agencies that provide needed services to the public without asking the wealthiest Americans to share in the sacrifice at all is not what the majority of Americans support."

Jessica Klement, government affairs director for the Federal Managers Association, said the reported proposal "is grossly disproportionate, short-sided and gravely unfair to our nation's hardworking federal employees who are already trying to do more with less."

A two-year pay freeze for federal workers took effect in January 2011. A bipartisan fiscal commission created by President Obama and led by former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson from Wyoming and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, recommended extending the pay freeze in a 2010 report. The panel also supported reducing the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition, replacing every three employees who leave with two.

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