Appropriators silent on 2013 pay raise

A Senate spending bill appropriators approved Tuesday does not include provisions related to federal pay, according to an aide familiar with the legislation.

A Senate Appropriations subcommittee marked up its fiscal 2013 Financial Services and General Government spending bill, following a House panel’s lead by staying silent on the issue of a possible federal pay raise next year. The annual financial services and general government bill typically is the vehicle for such federal pay provisions.

The Senate Appropriations Committee posted a summary of the legislation to its website, but did not release a draft of the actual bill.

The lack of provisions in both the House and Senate bills does not automatically mean federal workers will not get a pay raise in 2013. If there is not specific legislative language affecting federal salaries in any bills -- either stand-alone or omnibus legislation -- then the president has the authority to determine a pay raise based on the Employment Cost Index. Obama in his fiscal 2013 budget recommended a 0.5 percent pay boost for federal workers, but if Congress doesn’t appropriate funds for a pay raise, it’s unclear where the president would find the money for an increase, effectively continuing the current freeze. Congress, with the support of the Obama administration, placed federal civilian employees under a two-year pay freeze that began in January 2011.

The Financial Services and General Government spending measures, however, are not the only pending bills that affect federal pay. The House last Thursday passed Homeland Security spending legislation that did not include funding for Obama’s proposed 2013 civilian pay raise. A few weeks ago, the chamber passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill, which would starve the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments of funds needed to grant some civilians a pay hike. Obama has threatened to veto both the Homeland Security and the military-VA bills if they reach him.

In addition, the House has voted for other measures that specifically extend the federal pay freeze. The Senate already has rejected some of them, although an extension of the pay freeze by the upper chamber is not out of the question either.

The Senate Appropriations Committee plans to vote on the financial services and general government spending bill Thursday, and it’s likely lawmakers will offer amendments regarding a federal pay raise during that markup.

The Senate subcommittee’s financial services spending bill includes $22.9 billion in discretionary funding for fiscal 2013 for the Treasury Department, federal financial enforcement agencies and the judiciary. It also boosts funding for the Internal Revenue Service by 6 percent over fiscal 2012 to $12.5 billion. The House version of the spending bill freezes the IRS’ funding at the fiscal 2012 level of $11.8 billion.

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