House Spending Bill Silent on Civilian Pay Raise

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This story has been updated.

A pay raise for civilian federal employees next year is still a possibility, if not a probability.

The current House version of the fiscal 2014 Financial Services and General Government bill is silent on a pay raise for feds in 2014. It doesn’t include money for one, but it also leaves out language that would prohibit it. The financial services bill, as lawmakers refer to it, typically is the vehicle for such federal pay provisions.

The Appropriations Committee approved the legislation on Wednesday afternoon. The financial services bill funds the Treasury Department, Executive Office of the President, the Judiciary, District of Columbia, Small Business Administration, General Services Administration, Securities and Exchange Commission, and several other independent agencies.

None of the House fiscal 2014 spending bills so far contain funds for a civilian pay raise, said committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing in an email. The House to date has passed three of the 12 spending bills for fiscal 2014: Energy and Water Development; Homeland Security; and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies. The Senate has not yet passed any fiscal 2014 spending bills. House appropriators inserted language into the bills funding Homeland Security and VA that didn’t endorse a civilian pay raise, but didn’t forbid it either.

“The committee does not include requested funding for a civilian pay increase,” lawmakers wrote in both of those spending bills. “Should the president provide a civilian pay raise for fiscal year 2014, it is assumed that the cost of such a pay raise will be absorbed within existing appropriations for fiscal year 2014.”

The language regarding a 2014 pay raise in those bills, and the silence in the current financial services legislation, does not automatically mean federal workers will not get a pay raise in 2014. If there is no specific legislative language that provides funds or prohibits an across-the-board raise in any bills -- either stand-alone or omnibus legislation -- then the president has the authority to determine a pay raise based on the Employment Cost Index. President Obama in his fiscal 2014 budget recommended a 1 percent pay boost for federal workers, but if Congress doesn’t appropriate funds for a pay raise, it’s unclear where the president would find the money for an increase, effectively continuing the current freeze, which began in 2011.

Congress nixed Obama’s recommended 0.5 percent pay increase for feds in 2013, when it passed the continuing resolution in March to keep the government open through Sept. 30. The law overturned Obama’s executive order directing the raise to take effect in late March.

Even if Congress gives Obama the discretion to determine a 2014 pay increase, and he finds the money for one, it’s unlikely to please many federal workers, who have been subjected to unpaid leave this summer and may face additional furloughs in fiscal 2014 if Congress keeps sequestration in place. Federal employee and retiree advocates have criticized what they view as Obama’s tepid defense of federal pay and benefits.

The House in June approved a 1.8 percent pay boost for military service members next year. Obama also proposed a 1 percent pay raise for military personnel in 2014, which is what the current Senate defense authorization bill recommends. If the Senate sticks with the 1 percent pay raise, then lawmakers will have to reach consensus during conference committee on the final amount to give service members. Current law mandates a 1.8 percent boost for service members for 2014; the formula for determining service members’ annual pay increase is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Employment Cost Index and the growth in private-sector wages.

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