FEHBP Reform, Pay Freezes and Lawmakers’ Other Day 1 Priorities in the 114th Congress
Legislators target agency spending and their own compensation as new Congress begins.
Members of the 114th Congress wasted no time introducing bills that would impact federal employees, using their first day to put forward measures affecting pay, benefits and agency operations.
The new, Republican-controlled Congress has promised to rein in the federal bureaucracy and it is already demonstrating a willingness to do just that. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., presented three different bills Tuesday to slash agency spending across the board by 1 percent, 2 percent and 5 percent, respectively. The cuts would only exempt the Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments.
“Our nation is currently more than $18 trillion in debt,” Blackburn said. “The time is now for Washington to start living within its means. It is not fair to hard working taxpayers and future generations that Washington continues to spend money we don’t have for programs we don’t want or need.”
On the benefits side, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., introduced a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it by giving all Americans access to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Issa would task the Office of Personnel Management, which currently oversees FEHBP, with carrying out the health care overhaul. Issa, who introduced the same measure in the last Congress, said the proposal would improve access and choice to health insurance for all Americans, provide more affordable options and make prices easier to compare.
“Affordable, high quality, private plans can be offered to Americans without mandates, new taxes, bureaucratic hurdles, or adding to our deficit,” Issa said.
On a related note, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., introduced a bill that would end government-sponsored health care for members of Congress and their staffers, the president, the vice president and all political appointees. The Affordable Care Act required lawmakers and congressional aides to drop their FEHBP insurance coverage as of Oct. 1, 2013, and enter the newly created exchange market. OPM, however, issued a rule stating Capitol Hill staff would not lose their employer (government) contributions for their chosen health plans.
While a federal judge in July dismissed a lawsuit challenging OPM’s decision, Vitter’s bill would codify the effort to end the health care benefit for lawmakers and their aides, and expand it to appointees, the president and vice president.
Vitter also put forward a bill to end automatic pay raises for members of Congress. Lawmakers have blocked their own raises for each of the last six years. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., went a step farther, proposing to cut lawmakers’ pay 5 percent while also ending future cost-of-living adjustments.
Both Yoder and Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., introduced bills to end lawmakers’ eligibility to receive a pension through the Federal Employees Retirement System, instead only allowing Thrift Savings Plan participation. Vitter, along with Fitzpatrick, unveiled a measure to create term limits for members of Congress.