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Appropriators make pay freeze extension official

Stopgap spending measure continues current salary freeze on feds and lawmakers for next six months.

House appropriators have included a provision extending the civilian pay freeze for federal employees and lawmakers in the temporary spending measure designed to keep the government running through March 27, 2013.

The $1.047 trillion continuing resolution funds the government for the next six months and ensures feds will not see a pay bump until April at the earliest. President Obama in August recommended a 0.5 percent pay raise for federal workers in 2013 but not until Congress passes a budget, effectively extending the current two-year pay freeze.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, called the provision extending the salary freeze “disappointing.” She also said NTEU will push the White House and Congress to make the 0.5 percent increase retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013. The American Federation of Government Employees plans to do that as well.

The stop-gap spending measure is necessary to avoid a government shutdown on Sept. 30. Both chambers are expected to pass the bill, which sets fiscal 2013 funding at the level mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act. The temporary legislation essentially keeps funding at the current rate for agencies and federal programs with an across-the-board increase of 0.6 percent over the base rate for a total of $1.047 trillion. The House Rules Committee will take up the CR on Wednesday.

“This bill is very restricted in scope, does not contain extensive or controversial policy riders or funding levels that dramatically differ from current levels, and protects critical funding for our national defense,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said in a statement.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, called the temporary measure “a very clean CR” that would allow the government to avoid disruptions in basic services. “However, let no one think that putting the government on autopilot for a full six months is a good idea,” Inouye said. “Resources that could have been used for more urgent or important projects will instead be available for lower priority items.”

The CR provides $88.5 billion in war-related funding, as well as additional money for wildfire suppression efforts at the Interior Department, and a funding boost for the Veteran Affairs Department to handle an increase in disability claims. The measure also gives the Customs and Border Protection agency, part of the Homeland Security Department, some flexibility to shift funds internally to maintain current staffing levels for CBP officers and Border Patrol agents. The bill provides $6.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund, the same amount as last year.

In addition, the CR directs agencies to submit spending plans to Congress within 30 days of sequestration, if the automatic spending cuts take effect as scheduled in January 2013.

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