The silence on next year’s pay raise continues

House Appropriations Committee remains mum on the possibility of a salary boost.

The House Appropriations Committee advanced a spending bill Wednesday that does not contain a pay raise for federal workers in 2013.

The full panel followed the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee’s lead and stayed silent on whether to allocate funds for a federal civilian pay boost. The Financial Services and General Government spending bill, approved on a voice vote, typically is the legislative vehicle for annual federal pay provisions. The Senate’s version of the annual appropriations legislation also omitted language on federal pay raises next year.

No lawmakers, including Reps. James Moran, D-Va., and Frank Wolf, R-Va., offered amendments related to a pay raise for federal employees. Moran and Wolf both represent many federal workers in their congressional districts.

The lack of provisions in both the House and Senate bills, which now head to the floor in the two chambers, does not necessarily mean federal workers will not get a pay hike in 2013. If there is not specific language affecting federal salaries in any bills -- either stand-alone or omnibus legislation -- then the president has the authority to determine a raise based on the Employment Cost Index. President 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 he would find the money for an increase, effectively continuing the current freeze. Congress, with the Obama administration’s support, placed federal civilian employees under a two-year pay freeze that began in January 2011.

The Senate’s Financial Services and General Government spending bill also contains a measure that specifically prohibits political appointees from receiving a pay raise in 2013.

The Financial Services and General Government spending measures, however, are not the only pending bills that affect federal pay. The House-passed Homeland Security spending legislation did not include funding for Obama’s proposed 2013 civilian pay raise. The chamber also 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.