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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.

Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee are poised to endorse President Biden’s plan to increase federal employees’ pay by an average of 2.7% next year.

Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., unveiled the initial Senate versions of nine fiscal 2022 spending bills Monday, including the Financial Services and General Government appropriations package, which is the traditional avenue for Congress to weigh in on the annual federal employee pay raise.

That bill, like the version that was approved by the House in July, contains no language regarding federal worker compensation, effectively endorsing the proposal outlined by Biden in his budget this spring.

In August, Biden formalized the average 2.7% increase in his alternative pay plan, an annual document that is required to be published before September to avoid a much larger automatic pay increase in conformance with the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act. According to Biden’s plan, federal workers will receive a 2.2% across-the-board pay increase next year, in addition to an average 0.5% increase in locality pay.

The Senate’s inaction thus far to overrule the president comes as yet another blow to federal employee groups’ efforts to secure a more generous pay increase for their members. The groups had endorsed legislation from Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., which would provide federal workers with an average 3.2% pay raise in 2022, split between a 2.2% across-the-board increase and a 1% increase in locality pay. In 2021, federal employees received a 1% across-the-board pay raise, while locality pay remained at 2020 levels.

The road is not entirely clear for Biden’s 2.7% pay raise plan to become law, however. Unlike in the House, lawmakers need a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate to move spending legislation, meaning Democrats may need to make concessions to garner Republican votes. GOP senators have already decried the fact that the spending bills were drafted without their input.

“Chairman Leahy’s decision to unilaterally unveil partisan spending bills is a significant step in the wrong direction,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said in a statement.

And Leahy indicated Tuesday that the bills would be subject to further negotiations before they receive a vote. “As with everything in Congress, we rarely end where we begin,” he said.

Eric Katz contributed to this report.