House approves extended pay freeze

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., called the bill necessary Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., called the bill necessary Ed Reinke/AP

The House on Thursday approved a six-month spending measure that includes an extended pay freeze for federal employees and members of Congress.

As expected, lawmakers passed a $1.047 trillion continuing resolution for fiscal 2013 that funds the government through March 27, 2013. The stopgap spending measure ensures feds, already working under a two-year pay freeze, will not see a salary bump until April at the earliest. President Obama in August recommended a 0.5 percent pay raise for federal workers in 2013 but not until Congress passes a budget, effectively extending the freeze that took effect in January 2011.

Federal employee unions have criticized the move to extend the federal civilian salary freeze and are calling on the White House and Congress to make any pay raise approved next year retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013.

Rank-and-file lawmakers, who earn $174,000 a year, have denied themselves an annual pay increase since 2009.

The continuing resolution is necessary to avoid a government shutdown on Sept. 30. It sets fiscal 2013 funding at the level mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act, keeping funding at the current rate for agencies and federal programs with an across-the-board increase of 0.6 percent over the base rate for a total of $1.047 trillion.

“It’s a necessary bill that ensures the Congress does its job, even if it’s not our preferred way of doing it,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said on the floor. The committee’s ranking member Norm Dicks, D-Wash., also supported the bill during floor remarks, but expressed disappointment that Congress yet again is relying on temporary spending measures to fund the government rather than the regular appropriations process.

“Federal agencies need much more direction than what is provided in a continuing resolution,” Dicks said.

The Senate likely will pass the joint resolution next week.

The CR provides $88.5 billion in war-related funding, as well as additional money for wildfire suppression efforts at the Interior Department and Forest Service, and a funding boost for the Veteran Affairs Department to handle an increase in disability claims. The measure also gives Customs and Border Protection, part of the Homeland Security Department, some flexibility to shift funds internally to maintain current staffing levels for CBP officers and Border Patrol agents. The bill provides $6.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund, the same amount as last year.

In addition, the CR directs agencies to submit spending plans to Congress within 30 days of sequestration, if the automatic spending cuts take effect as scheduled in January 2013.

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