GOP lawmakers want to cut federal workforce to avoid sequester

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., center, responds to a reporter's question with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., right, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., center, responds to a reporter's question with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., right, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Republican lawmakers in both chambers on Wednesday proposed reducing the federal workforce through attrition to avoid sequestration this year.

The 2013 Down Payment to Protect National Security Act would cut the entire government workforce by 10 percent through attrition at an estimated savings of $85 billion over the next decade. It would replace the sequester for one year: The government will need to trim $85 billion in Defense and non-defense spending in fiscal 2013 if sequestration takes effect on March 1.

The bill would allow federal agencies to hire one person for every three employees who retire or leave their job. The hiring reduction likely would take place over the next four to five years, but the savings would be felt “over the 10-year budget window,” according to a Capitol Hill aide.

The Defense Department’s civilian workforce, for example, would return to its 2009 levels.

The legislation, shepherded in the House by Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., and in the Senate by Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., also would freeze lawmakers’ pay every year the federal government is in the red.

“It is a better solution for our government workforce than the 800,000 indiscriminate furloughs under sequestration,” according to a fact sheet on the legislation. “By paying for the deficit reduction otherwise required in 2013, the bill is preferable to the president’s plan to pay for sequester with tax hikes and additional defense cuts.”

President Obama on Tuesday urged lawmakers to again delay the automatic, governmentwide spending cuts before they take effect on March 1. Congress should pass a short-term package that includes spending cuts and tax reforms to postpone sequestration for a few months if they cannot agree on a longer-term deficit reduction plan by the March 1 deadline, Obama said during a White House press conference.

Federal employee unions blasted the proposal to avert one year of the sequester by reducing the government workforce. “Everyone agrees that sequestration is terrible policy,” said National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley. “Plans to implement it on March 1 should be abandoned, but doing so with a 10 percent reduction in the federal workforce is foolhardy and would result in short staffing that could last for a decade.”

American Federation of Government Employees Union President J. David Cox, Sr., said lawmakers should look to contractors, not the Defense workforce, for savings. “If Congressional Republicans want to reduce DoD, they should take on their weapons contractors cronies by reforming how we buy their products, reduce excessive layers of management bureaucracy, cap at $200,000 annually taxpayer subsidies to contractor compensation, and substitute reliable and experienced federal employees for ruinously costly contractors,” Cox said.

Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., who represents many federal workers, said government employees should not be asked to sacrifice more in the name of deficit reduction.

“Since 2011, federal employees have sacrificed $103 billion in the name of deficit reduction, more than $50,000 per employee,” Moran said, referring to the extended federal pay freeze and other measures. “It is time for Congress to find a comprehensive deficit plan that asks others to pay their fair share.

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This post was updated to restore a dropped word. 

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