The House Democrat responsible for keeping tabs on how his colleagues plan to vote is declining to predict if enough Democrats will join Republicans on Wednesday in trying to pass a GOP bill to extend the existing pay freeze for federal workers through 2013.
But House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, whose Washington area district includes thousands of federal workers, described the GOP measure on Tuesday as a cleverly contrived election-year effort to trap opponents in an embarrassing vote.
Under the bill’s language, a pay freeze that has been in place for federal workers since 2010 would continue beyond this December to the end of 2013, and it would also prevent members of Congress from getting a pay increase.
And that’s a quandary, said Hoyer during a briefing with reporters, for those who might otherwise not want to extend the freeze on nonmilitary federal workers.
“I don’t know -- it includes a freeze of our own salary,” said Hoyer, when asked how he sees the vote playing out on the bill sponsored by Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis.
“Very clever,” Hoyer said. “So it will be perceived as, if you’re voting against the bill, you're voting to raise your own salary.”
To add to gamesmanship, the bill’s passage in the House may depend on what Democrats decide to do. The Republican majority has placed the legislation on Wednesday’s suspension calendar,” meaning that two-thirds of those members present for the vote must agree for it to pass.
And although Republicans hold 242 of the 433 currently occupied seats in the House, they do not control two-thirds of them -- meaning that some Democratic support will be needed -- that is, if all the members show up to vote.
But to hear Hoyer describe it, whether the bill passes or not, congressional Republicans and the National Republican Congressional Committee may already be revving up attack ads against Democrats who vote against the measure. “A very good 30-second ad. Isn’t that clever?” Hoyer asked again.
Duffy and Republicans say that the bill makes sense. He has said that with private-sector workers facing a squeeze and millions of families looking for work, asking that tax dollars go to a pay raise for government employees “is just not right.”
But Hoyer argues that the bill ignores mechanisms that he says are already in place, such as the federal pay council, that – in his view -- works to compare what is happening in the private sector “so that federal employees are not getting more, nor are they being disadvantaged.”