Senate approves 4.1 percent federal civilian pay raise

The Senate passed an appropriations bill Thursday night that includes a 4.1 percent pay raise in 2004 for federal civilian employees.

The $90 billion Transportation and Treasury budget bill includes language mandating pay parity in 2004 between civilian employees and uniformed service members. House legislators approved a similar measure in September.

The Bush administration wants to hold white-collar civil service raises at 2 percent next year and create a $500 million Human Capital Performance Fund from which managers could withdraw extra money to raise the salaries of their best performers. House leaders approved an amendment, offered by House Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., creating the fund in the fiscal 2004 Defense authorization bill.

"We were very pleased with the Senate action, which was a confirmation of the bipartisan support that this issue has had throughout the year," said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. "I hope that this will be finalized, the president . . . is on record as opposing the 4.1 percent, but I am cautiously optimistic that this will be finalized shortly and that this year's debate will be over and federal employees will get the raise they deserve."

The appropriations bill also included a measure added by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, blocking a regulation proposed by the Office of Personnel Management, which would give that agency more control over the current system of assigning federal employees to serve in temporary assignments in congressional offices.

"The regulation proposed by the Office of Personnel Management will inevitably ruin the benefits of this long-term practice," Grassley said on the Senate floor Thursday. "Moreover, this regulation attempts to limit the activities in which executive branch employees can engage while under the direct supervision of a congressional office in an effort to micromanage from afar. This is unacceptable."

Under the proposed rule, published in the Federal Register on Sept. 9, OPM would approve all requests to detail federal employees to Capitol Hill and most assignments would be limited to six months. The Grassley amendment would prevent the use of federal funds to implement the regulation.

On Wednesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., announced plans to introduce similar legislation.