Senate again rejects payroll tax cut bills

Republican measure included provisions that would have extended the federal pay freeze and reduced the government workforce.

The Senate once again blocked a bill that would have extended the pay freeze for federal employees and downsized the government workforce to finance an extension of the payroll tax cut.

The measure, which would have extended the payroll tax holiday in part by prolonging the federal salary freeze for civilian workers, was defeated in a 22-76 vote Thursday. The legislation would have instituted a five-year pay freeze on feds and replaced every three workers who leave government service with one employee. The bill failed to pass last week in a 20-78 vote.

The National Treasury Employees Union praised the defeat of the GOP proposal. "I applaud the Senate for rejecting this unjust, ill-advised proposal targeting federal employees for even further sacrifice," said NTEU President Colleen Kelley.

In addition, the Senate again rejected legislation, sponsored by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., that would have paid for the tax cut extension by levying a tax on individuals with incomes exceeding $1 million. The bill, which needed 60 votes to proceed, failed on a 50-48 vote. Last week, a similar bill offered by Casey also failed to garner the 60 votes necessary for passage.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., along with other Democrats who represent many federal workers, sent a letter Thursday to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urging him to oppose any proposals that call for a further federal pay freeze or government downsizing to finance a payroll tax cut extension.

"Federal employees have already taken on a huge burden with the two-year pay freeze implemented in January of this year," the letter stated. "This policy will continue to provide significant savings in future years; $28 billion in five years, $60 billion in 10 years. To ask these hardworking individuals -- the very people who keep our food supply safe, our borders secure and develop life-saving technologies -- to make further sacrifices is simply unfair."

The American Federation of Government Employees also sent a letter to House lawmakers Thursday urging them to reject any proposals that would adversely affect the federal workforce. The Federal-Postal Coalition, a group of federal employee and manager advocates, voiced its opposition to House leadership Wednesday.

House Republicans reportedly are considering a plan on the payroll tax cut extension that includes a prolonged pay freeze.

The Obama administration again released statements Thursday supporting Casey's bill and opposing the Republican legislation. Neither statement specifically mentioned the proposed pay freeze or workforce downsizing recommendations.