Ten Republicans Urge Oversight Committee Chair Not to Cut Retirement Benefits for Feds

A preliminary version of the House budget blueprint instructs Rep. Trey Gowdy's committee to reduce retirement benefits, but leaves specifics up to his panel.  A preliminary version of the House budget blueprint instructs Rep. Trey Gowdy's committee to reduce retirement benefits, but leaves specifics up to his panel. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

A group of 10 House Republicans sent a letter Wednesday to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., urging him not to make any changes to federal employee retirement programs.

Last week, the House Budget Committee passed a fiscal 2018 budget resolution instructing Gowdy's oversight committee to find ways to reduce the deficit by a minimum of $32 billion over the next 10 years, although the measure did not specify how to get to that target.

The Trump administration’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal included a number of cuts to federal workers’ retirement programs, including increasing employees’ retirement contributions by 1 percentage point annually for six years and basing retirement annuities on the highest five years of a worker’s salary instead of the current three. It also would eliminate subsidies for Federal Employees Retirement System workers who retire before Social Security kicks in, eliminate cost of living adjustments for FERS employees and reduce COLAs for Civil Service Retirement System workers by 0.5 percent.

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The Republicans who wrote Wednesday's letter cited the “significant numbers of federal workers” in their districts, and said those people “have already sacrificed” in the name of deficit reduction. Signatories were Reps. Rob Bishop, R-Utah; Tom Cole, R-Okla.; Rob Wittman, R-Va.; Chris Smith, R-N.J.; Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Barbara Comstock, R-Va.; Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J.; Peter King, R-N.Y.; and Austin Scott, R-Ga.

“Our strongest objection is how the proposals break a promise to employees and retirees who have based career planning on longstanding promised benefit calculations,” the lawmakers wrote. “They and their families don’t deserve to be treated in this cavalier manner. No one needs to remind us of the deficit and the debt problem our nation faces, but federal employees are an easy political target.”

The letter comes a week after the Republican Study Committee, a group of more than 150 members of the House GOP, released its own alternative budget proposal, which recommended even steeper cuts to federal employees' pay and benefits.

Among the changes in the RSC proposal was reducing the across-the-board pay increase for federal employees by 0.5 percentage points compared to the automatic pay increase mandated by statute, which is currently in line with Trump’s proposed 1.9 percent raise for civilian workers. The Republican Study Committee also proposed increasing the amount employees must contribute to retirement programs, but did not specify by how much.

“Federal bureaucrats have enormous power over the lives of everyday Americans and also get paid more on average than the people they are supposed to serve,” the RSC wrote. “[With] the national debt nearing $20 trillion, and projected to skyrocket to $30 trillion over the next decade, a fiscal state of emergency exists.”

The RSC endorsed the White House’s plan to base retirement annuities on the highest five years of salary, as well as to eliminate supplemental payments to FERS workers who retire before the age of 62. It also recommended moving the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to a premium support system. "The government would offer a standard federal contribution towards the purchase of health insurance and employees would be responsible for paying the rest," the plan stated. "This option would encourage employees to purchase plans with the appropriate amount of coverage that fits their needs.

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