Feds, Funding, Furloughs and the Fiscal Rollercoaster
How we got to where we are in the annual budget mess, and where we’re headed.
By now, it’s routine that federal employees’ pay, benefits and the simple issue of whether they’re allowed to work are held hostage to negotiations over appropriations, the debt ceiling, or whatever pet issue rankles enough lawmakers to bring the legislative process to a halt.
And as if things couldn’t get any worse, it is now commonplace that Democrats and Republicans can’t even agree among themselves about what their spending priorities should be. So before they even begin to negotiate with the other side, they have epic internecine fights.
Meanwhile, deadlines come and deadlines go—some critical, some less so. Let’s look at how we got to where we are today, with thanks to a helpful website maintained by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:
- March 11: President Biden signs American Rescue Plan Act, with expanded unemployment benefits, stimulus checks and a host of other pandemic relief programs.
- May 28: White House releases $6 trillion fiscal 2022 budget.
- Aug.1: The “temporary” suspension of the federal debt limit expires. The Treasury Department begins using by-now-ordinary “extraordinary measures” to keep the government afloat, including temporarily raiding federal employee retirement funds. But come Oct. 18, it’s Default Day.
- Sept. 30: The House and Senate pass a continuing resolution keeping agencies funded through Dec. 3, for what only seems like the millionth year in a row. Biden signs it.
- Oct. 1: Funding for surface transportation programs runs out, forcing the Transportation Department to furlough 3,700 workers for the day.
- Oct. 2: Congress belatedly and temporarily fixes the problem.
- Oct. 12: House passes a debt limit extension lasting until early December. The Senate had passed the extension on Oct. 6.
So we’re midway through this rollercoaster ride, and the car has stalled at the top of an incline, with a steep drop ahead. At the end of the day Dec, 3, the money runs out again. If history is a guide, little to no progress will be made on appropriations issues between now and then. So the question will be: How far will they kick the can down the road next?
Other pay and benefits-related headlines you might’ve missed this week:
- Senate Appropriators Endorse Biden’s 2.7% Pay Raise for Feds in 2022 Spending bills unveiled by Senate Democrats Monday were silent on the issue of federal employee compensation, potentially clearing the way for President Biden’s plan.
- OPM to Propose Expanding Dental and Vision Benefits to More Federal Workers In a new proposed rule, OPM would extend eligibility to temporary and part-time workers, as well as federal firefighters and other “intermittent” first responders.
- GovExec Daily: The Best Dates to Retire in 2022 Retirement planning expert Tammy Flanagan joins the podcast to discuss the best timing for leaving federal service.
- Meet the Federal Employees Who Will Refuse the Covid-19 Vaccine "There is no way I'm getting that shot:" Some employees will leave their jobs if they cannot get around Biden's vaccine mandate.
- Open Season To-Do List Don’t let health insurance decisions and deadlines sneak up on you.