Architect of the Capitol

House Advances Feds’ Pay Raise, as Well as a Bonus Ban

Spending measure would also roll back court’s approval of punishing employee who refused to break rules.

The House on Thursday approved a spending bill that would pave the way for federal employees to receive their largest across-the-board pay raise since 2010, though the measure includes some provisions civil servants will likely find troubling.

Lawmakers voted in favor of the Fiscal 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act in a mostly party line vote, with Democrats withholding support due to cuts to the Internal Revenue Service and several policy riders. The passage of the bill, however, was the first step in allowing President Obama’s proposed 1.6 percent raise for federal workers to take effect.

The House unanimously approved an amendment to prevent federal agencies from punishing employees who refuse to break rules and regulations. The measure would actually prevent only the implementation of Rainey v. Merit Systems Protection Board, a case the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on last month to set the precedent that agencies can discipline employees who ignore directives that would violate rules not written into federal statute.

While the amendment is narrow in scope as it does not address the larger precedent, its author, Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., said it was meant as a first step to bring attention to the issue. Duffy added the precedent could stymie feds’ ability to blow the whistle on wrongdoing.

The appropriations bill did not only contain good news for federal workers, however; the House also approved an amendment that would prevent any agency covered under the larger bill -- including the IRS, General Services Administration, Securities and Exchange Commission and others -- from doling out bonuses to Senior Executive Service employees.

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said he introduced the amendment -- which passed without objection -- as retribution against the IRS for its alleged targeted auditing of conservative political groups.

“Giving out bonuses to senior management in the middle of one of the largest and most significant scandals in modern American history is a slap in the face to the American public,” Gosar said. “Once the IRS can prove that it will hold rogue employees accountable for their ineptitude, I will cease my efforts to prohibit these awards.”

Jason Briefel, interim president of the Senior Executives Association, deplored the amendment.

"It is unconscionable that Rep. Gosar and other dishonest legislators continue to manipulate the American people by pointing to individual outliers and broad-brushing the entire senior executive corps of the federal government in a negative light," Briefel said. "While Congress readies itself to leave Washington with a laundry list of unfinished business, these public servants -- many of whom have dedicated their lives to our country -- will continue to work to ensure that the everyday business of the government, which touches the lives of every American, stays on track.”​

Another measure would prevent any federal agency covered in the bill from issuing a new or final regulation until Obama’s successor is sworn into office. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., said his amendment would rein in unaccountable federal employees.

“The problem is agencies have moved beyond their constitutional authority, and Washington bureaucrats are accountable to no one,” Hudson said. “They show little regard for the real world damage of their new rules on working families, on people looking for jobs, on our economy in general.”

Obama has already threatened to veto the House’s version of the spending bill, citing several areas of perceived underfunding and the blocking of many of the president’s policy initiatives.