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Pay freeze extension on the table again

GOP Sen. Pat Roberts would use savings to offset the cost of tax relief, energy measures in transportation bill.

A proposed amendment to the Senate highway bill would extend the pay freeze for federal employees and lawmakers in order to offset the costs of the measure’s tax relief and energy provisions, including oil and gas exploration.

The amendment, introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., represents another twist in ongoing highway bill negotiations that affects federal employees. The Senate passed another amendment to the same bill Thursday that allows retirement-eligible federal employees to work part-time.

The Obama administration proposed a 0.5 percent pay boost for civilian federal employees in its fiscal 2013 budget request, which would end the current two-year federal salary freeze that began in January 2011. Roberts’ amendment would extend that freeze for a third year, ending it in December 2013.

The National Treasury Employees Union plans to submit a letter to lawmakers opposing the Roberts amendment prior to Tuesday’s vote.

“It is time to stop these repeated attacks on middle-class federal employees who have dedicated their professional lives to serving their fellow Americans,” NTEU President Colleen Kelley said in a statement Friday.

NTEU and other labor unions also opposed the part-time amendment on principle, arguing that federal pay and benefits should not be used “as an ATM machine” to fund unrelated lawmaker wish lists.