House backs pay freeze extension

Evan Vucci/AP

The House on Thursday passed a measure that extends the federal pay freeze, downsizes the government workforce and increases the amount federal employees contribute to their pensions.

In a 228 to 191 vote that split along party lines, the chamber approved the Republican fiscal 2013 budget plan, including the provisions affecting the pay and benefits of federal workers. The concurrent resolution, offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., does not carry the force of law but indicates the direction the GOP majority will take in the fiscal 2013 budget process.

Also Thursday, lawmakers rejected an alternative budget proposal in a 262 to 163 vote. That measure, shepherded by Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen, did not include any provisions affecting feds’ pay and benefits.

The GOP’s $3.5 trillion budget plan extends the pay freeze on civilian workers through 2015, reduces the size of government by 10 percent through attrition and requires federal employees to contribute more money to their retirement benefits. The provisions would result in about $368 billion in cuts to the federal workforce during the next decade. In addition, the Republican measure would relieve the Defense Department from significant budget cuts resulting from sequestration, which takes effect starting in 2013.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said the House-approved resolution would make it more difficult for agencies to retain talented employees and prevent the public from receiving government services. “This budget does not serve the best interests of our nation and the American people,” Kelley said. “I look forward to the Senate giving it the support it deserves: None.”

The Federal-Postal Coalition, which includes various groups representing the interests of federal employees and managers, sent House lawmakers a letter earlier this week urging them to oppose Ryan’s proposal.

The measure likely will fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but proposals to reduce federal pay and benefits will remain alive for the foreseeable future.

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