Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., was one of the lead signatories on the letter.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., was one of the lead signatories on the letter. Andrew Harnik/AP

Senate Democrats Join Din of Retirement Cut Opposition

Lawmakers argue some cuts target federal workers who are forced to retire before Social Security eligibility.

A group of 18 Democratic senators Wednesday became the latest to send a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urging them to reject President Trump’s proposals to cut federal employee retirement programs in the fiscal 2018 budget.

Led by Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, the lawmakers argued the plan would both break promises made to current federal workers and hurt the government’s ability to attract new and younger workers to public service.

“It is clear that the U.S. is facing a retirement crisis, and we urge you to oppose any proposal that affects the ability of our federal employees to maintain their financial plans for their retirement as well as their standard of living following their service to the government,” the senators wrote. “Furthermore, nearly one third of permanent career federal employees will be eligible to retire by 2019. Given that fact, we should dedicate our attention to recruiting and training the next generation of workers to replace those who are approaching retirement.”

The Trump administration’s fiscal 2018 budget plan included provisions that would increase the amount feds contribute to their retirement by 1 percentage point annually for six years, and it would base retirees’ annuity payments on their highest five years of salary, rather than the current highest three years. It also would eliminate cost of living adjustments for Federal Employees Retirement System participants, and reduce COLAs for Civil Service Retirement System workers by 0.5 percentage points.

The budget also called for an end to subsidies for FERS employees who retire before the age of 62, when Social Security kicks in.

The letter was released on Friday, just one day after a group of 10 Republican lawmakers urged House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., to leave federal employee retirement programs alone. The House Budget Committee instructed Gowdy’s panel to cut the deficit by a minimum of $32 billion over the next 10 years, although it did not specify how he had to reach that target.

The senators denounced the end to FERS supplements for employees who retire before the age of 62, noting that many of those affected are required to leave their posts early.

“This important supplement is paid to federal employees only until they are eligible for Social Security benefits and its elimination would force individuals to consider working longer and penalize those who by law are required to retire early due to the physical demands of their jobs, including law enforcement officers, Customs and Border Protection officers, firefighters and air traffic controllers,” they wrote.

The House left for recess Friday and the Senate plans to leave by Aug. 11. Congress will likely tackle funding the government and raising the debt ceiling when it returns in September.