J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate rejects pay freeze extension for federal workers

Full transportation bill vote expected Wednesday.

The Senate on Tuesday voted down a measure that would have extended the federal pay freeze to help fund a sweeping piece of transportation legislation, including approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. 

The amendment to the Senate’s Surface Transportation Bill failed 41-57. The Senate voted on many amendments to the $109 billion federal transportation legislation, and the chamber's leadership hoped the full bill would see a vote early Wednesday.

If passed, the amendment, introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., would have extended the current two-year federal salary freeze that began in January 2011 by one additional year, ending it in December 2013. Currently, it is set to expire in December 2012. President Obama has proposed a 0.5 percent raise for federal employees in 2013.

The National Treasury Employees Union and the American Federation of Government Employees cheered the amendment’s failure.

“Rejecting this amendment is clear evidence that many members of the Senate understand the need for shared sacrifice among every group in our society, rather than turning to federal employees for even greater contributions, especially to fund matters unrelated to the federal workforce,” NTEU President Colleen Kelley said in a statement Wednesday.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., voiced dissent to the bill during floor debate Wednesday, calling the amendment “another Republican attack on the federal workforce.”

“Enough is enough. Every amendment, they’re picking on the federal workforce,” Cardin said. Roberts did not mention the federal pay freeze measure during the debate.

The House passed a pay-freeze extension similar to the Robert’s amendment in February.