House Republicans Express Concern With Trump's Proposed Federal Retirement Program Cuts

Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., was one of the Republicans who signed on to the letter. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., was one of the Republicans who signed on to the letter. Alex Brandon/AP file photo

A group of nine House Republicans recently sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announcing “concerns” with proposed cuts to federal retirement programs outlined in President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget.

The lawmakers cited the large number of federal employees and retirees living in their districts, and they noted that about 30.9 percent of the federal workforce is made up of veterans. Although they did not outright say that they oppose the retirement cuts, they described their inclusion in the budget as “recycling discredited proposals targeting federal workers.”

“The president’s FY2018 budget proposal increasing the amount federal employees pay toward their retirement fund would be tantamount to an immediate and permanent 6 percent pay cut,” the representatives wrote.

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Republican signatories on the letter were Reps. Rob Bishop of Utah, Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Austin Scott of Georgia, Barbara Comstock and Rob Wittman of Virginia, Christopher Smith and Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, Walter Jones of North Carolina and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.

The Trump budget includes a 1.9 percent pay hike for civilian federal employees and a 2.1 percent raise for military personnel next year. But it proposes an annual 1 percent increase in workers’ contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System for the next six years.

It also would reduce cost of living adjustments for Civil Service Retirement System beneficiaries by 0.5 percent, and it would eliminate COLAs altogether for FERS employees and retirees. The budget would change the calculation for pension payments to be based on feds’ highest five years of salary, instead of the current highest three, and it would eliminate the supplement for workers who retire before Social Security kicks in at age 62.

The lawmakers also slammed the proposal for applying the cuts to current employees and retirees, not just future hires.

“Our strongest objection is how the proposals break a promise to employees and retirees who have based career planning on longstanding promised benefit calculations,” they wrote. “They and their families don’t deserve to be treated in this cavalier manner.”

News of the letter came days after more than 100 Democrats signed onto separate correspondence opposing the proposed changes to federal employee retirement programs.

Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, applauded the Republicans’ willingness to buck party leadership on the issue.

“We commend these House members for publicly standing with their constituents and other federal employees around the country who are tired of being singled out in the name of deficit reduction,” Reardon said in a statement. “Their letter puts House leadership on notice that any effort to slash federal salaries and pensions will be met with fierce, bipartisan resistance.”

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