Carolyn Kaster/AP

Obama Signs Off On Fed Pay Freeze

Law avoids government shutdown and extends pay freeze for the third straight year.

President Obama on Tuesday signed into law legislation that extends the federal pay freeze through the rest of 2013 and keeps the government running until the end of the fiscal year.

Congress last week agreed on a continuing resolution to fund federal agencies through Sept. 30. Lawmakers extended the current freeze on federal civilian workers’ pay and their own salaries for a third consecutive year as part of the deal to avoid a government shutdown. The previous CR expires on Wednesday.

The House last Thursday put its stamp of approval on the $984 billion spending package that the Senate passed on March 20. The legislation maintains the sequester, avoids a government shutdown, and also breaks out specific funding for the appropriations bills dealing with Agriculture; Commerce; Justice and Science; Defense; Homeland Security; and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.

Both the House and Senate included provisions that extend the current pay freeze for federal employees and lawmakers through the end of 2013. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who worked closely with Ranking Member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., on crafting the Senate bill, said she did not want to include the freeze for feds but that it was necessary to prevent a government shutdown. She likened the CR to the last helicopter leaving a disaster area. “The helicopter couldn’t take off if this modest pay raise was on it. I think this is a terrible mistake,” she said. “I hope that in next year’s regular order, we can make this up. But I want to say to my federal employees, this was a draconian choice.” Maryland is home to 130,000 federal employees.

Obama issued an executive order in late 2012 that would have ended the two-year salary freeze on March 27 and given civilian federal workers a 0.5 percent raise in 2013. This legislation overturns that executive order.

The freeze applies to the annual across-the-board pay raise that federal workers last received in 2010. Employees are still eligible for step increases and other financial incentives; however, the Office of Management and Budget has directed agencies to refrain from handing out bonuses and other awards while sequestration is in effect.