House panel approves part-time retirement for feds

Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Darrell Issa, R-Calif. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

This story has been updated with comment.

A House panel voted unanimously Wednesday to advance legislation that would allow retirement-eligible employees to work part time and to roll unused annual leave into their Thrift Savings Plans.

The bill, H.R. 4363, would amend U.S. law to allow federal employees to continue working part time while partially retired.

It was introduced just this week in the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, where it won support from both parties on a panel that usually displays deep divisions over provisions regarding federal employees.

While details were not yet available, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the legislation could save taxpayers approximately $465 million dollars within 10 years, since agencies would not have to replace all retirees with part-time employees.

“Employees often retire because their pensions are nearly as much as they would make continuing to work,” Issa said at Wednesday’s hearing. “This proposal keeps the best working longer and in an appropriate amount of hours.”

The committee’s ranking minority member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said he strongly supported the bill, but did not back using the $460 million in savings to pay for legislation that was not related to federal employees.

“This bothers me that savings are created and the next thing you know, they go to build some roads,” Cummings said, referring to a similar proposal passed in March in the Senate as part of a $109 billion transportation bill. In that legislation, the savings from the work-retirement hybrid for feds would be used to help offset economic aid in rural communities. This transfer raised eyebrows among union representatives, who largely said they support the plan but oppose any use of federal retirement savings on unrelated measures.

But the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) praised the House bill Wednesday.

“This legislation would provide personal flexibility for federal employees who wish to cut back on their hours but not fully retire,” NARFE president Joseph A. Beaudoin said in a statement. “Instead of losing valued employees, agencies would be able to retain them part-time and benefit from their ability to mentor junior employees, including their replacements.”

Similar to its objections to the Senate provisions, NARFE opposed savings from the bill offsetting unrelated spending and suggested money from the measure should be credited to the Civil Service Disability and Retirement Fund or other civil service improvements.

U.S. Postal Service employees also would be eligible to participate in the work-retirement hybrid program.

“This will help the Postal Service manage costs and give management greater flexibility to meet the demand,” Issa said.

Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., a co-sponsor of the bill, added an amendment that would allow federal retirees to roll unused annual vacation leave into their Thrift Savings Plans upon retirement. The committee backed the inclusion of the amendment in the bill.

The bill is slated for consideration by the full House.

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