Sandy amendments target federal transit benefits, spending

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., wants to impose across-the-board spending cuts of 1.63 percent for all federal agencies. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., wants to impose across-the-board spending cuts of 1.63 percent for all federal agencies. Mary Ann Chastain/AP

A Republican lawmaker is offering two amendments to the Sandy storm relief bill that would directly affect federal employees.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., wants to impose across-the-board spending cuts of 1.63 percent for all federal agencies and to eliminate the mass transit subsidy benefit for government employees. The amendments are designed to help offset the $17 billion in emergency funding in the disaster recovery bill. A third amendment directs the Government Accountability Office to report on how the savings are spent.

Mulvaney said providing disaster relief is a “proper function” of government and called his amendments “common-sense ideas” for offsetting the cost of the emergency appropriations. “I absolutely support the federal government’s role in situations such as this,” he said, noting that he is from a hurricane-prone state.

The South Carolina lawmaker plans to submit his amendments to the House Rules Committee Monday evening. The House will debate the relief package early this week, with a possible floor vote on Tuesday.

Federal employee advocates were unhappy about the proposed amendments. National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley sent a letter on Friday to Rules Committee members asking them to oppose the provisions. Another across-the-board spending cut would “further impede the federal government’s ability to continue providing the critical services the American people rely on,” she said, arguing that agencies already face an 8 percent reduction to their budgets if Congress fails to delay sequestration again.

Kelley also said ending the mass transit benefit, which Congress just increased to $240 per month through 2013, would create more pain for feds laboring under a two-year pay freeze and attacks on their pensions. “Federal employees have not been immune to the economic downturn and eliminating their transit benefit would only serve to worsen their economic situation, and undermine the goal of the benefit, to encourage more mass transit participation,” the letter stated.

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