Senate Bill Upholds Pay Freeze

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP File Photo

Federal employees will not receive an across-the-board pay increase for 2013 under the Senate bill to keep the government open through the end of the fiscal year.

The Senate Appropriations Committee late Monday night unveiled its continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown after the current funding measure expires on March 27. It includes a provision, also in the House-passed CR, that maintains the current pay freeze for federal employees and lawmakers through Dec. 31, 2013.

“I’m deeply disappointed the Senate bill doesn’t include a much-deserved and long-awaited cost of living adjustment for federal employees,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., in a statement. Mikulski chairs the Appropriations Committee; Maryland is home to thousands of federal workers. “This bill is not perfect. But it’s far better than shutting down the government. My goal is to keep the government open, so we can pass a budget, solve sequester and get back to regular order,” she said, pledging to keep fighting for feds.

A Democratic aide said including an across-the-board pay increase for federal workers in the Senate bill could have cost the necessary votes in both chambers for passage, resulting in a government shutdown.

Mikulski worked closely with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the committee’s ranking member, to craft legislation that upholds the spending levels mandated by the sequester. It 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.

“Chairwoman Mikulski and I began this process with three shared goals: first, to prevent a government shutdown; second, to provide as much flexibility as possible for the remainder of this fiscal year; and third, to produce a bill that both parties in both houses can support,” Shelby said in a statement. “I believe that we have achieved all three goals.” The appropriators offered the legislation in the form of a substitute amendment to the House continuing resolution.

The legislation, however, does not contain greater reprogramming authority, subject to congressional approval, to give agencies more flexibility to transfer funds under sequestration. But by offering full-year funding for many agencies, lawmakers hope to avoid the frequent, large-scale temporary nature of the CR that makes it difficult for agencies to efficiently manage their budgets. The House continuing resolution contains full-year funding for Defense, and Military Construction-VA appropriations bills.

The Senate continuing resolution details spending across a wide range of agency programs and expenditures, including salaries. For instance, it provides $6.7 billion for salaries and expenses at the Bureau of Prisons, a $141 million increase over fiscal 2012. It also contains $8 billion for salaries at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as “streamlined critical pay authority” for the Internal Revenue Service through the end of fiscal 2013.

The Senate is debating the CR, including amendments, on Tuesday. Final votes are expected this week.

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