House GOP continues to push federal employee pay and benefits reforms

Speaker John Boehner sent President Obama a counterproposal to reduce the deficit. Speaker John Boehner sent President Obama a counterproposal to reduce the deficit. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

House GOP leaders on Monday reiterated their belief that reductions to federal employees’ compensation should be part of a deal to decrease the deficit.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent President Obama a counterproposal to reduce the deficit and in an accompanying letter, mentioned federal compensation reforms included in the House budget resolution. That resolution, which House lawmakers approved in the spring, would extend the federal pay freeze, shrink the government workforce by 10 percent through attrition, and require feds to contribute more to their pensions.

In a Dec. 3 letter to Obama on the GOP framework for averting the fiscal cliff, Boehner specifically mentioned “reforms to federal employee compensation” as part of mandatory savings included in the resolution. Those reforms, along with others from the House-approved resolution that Boehner highlighted, are “absolutely essential to addressing the true drivers of our debt, and we will continue to support and advance them,” the letter stated.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and other GOP leaders also signed the letter.

Boehner’s office did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

The speaker also referenced a deficit reduction proposal advocated by former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles as a basis for negotiating a deal. Bowles, along with  former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson from Wyoming led a fiscal panel in 2010 that recommended a three-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers, a smaller government workforce and a review of military and civilian retirement systems, among other proposals.

The Republican plan for avoiding the fiscal cliff would raise $800 billion in revenue through tax reform, though not through a proposal to raise rates; it calls for $1.2 trillion in spending cuts.

Boehner said the president’s proposal, which includes more savings from tax revenue than in spending cuts, “contains very little in the way of common ground.” The speaker criticized the president’s proposal to avoid the fiscal cliff as “neither balanced nor realistic,” saying that if Republicans were to take the White House offer seriously, “then we would counter with the House-passed budget resolution.”

Federal employee advocates and Washington-area lawmakers oppose including any proposals targeting federal pay and benefits in a budget deficit deal. But the White House and several lawmakers support increasing the amount that feds contribute to their pensions.

In addition, Obama and Congress extended the current pay freeze through at least Mar. 27. Obama has said he supports giving feds a 0.5 percent pay raise next year when Congress passes a budget, but it’s unclear whether lawmakers will approve one.

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