The House’s Defense Policy Bill Could Codify Contractor Minimum Wage
The House is set to vote this week on its version of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, an annual must-pass bill that often serves as the vehicle for provisions impacting the federal workforce.
House lawmakers are slated to vote this week on an annual defense policy bill already packed with provisions that would impact federal employees and contractors, including codification of President Biden’s $15 minimum wage for contract workers.
The House Rules Committee is scheduled to consider the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 7900) Tuesday. The House likely will vote on the package, which as a must-pass bill is often a vehicle for lawmakers to other legislation related to personnel policies elsewhere in the federal government, on Wednesday, per House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s weekly vote schedule.
At a markup by the House Armed Services Committee last month, lawmakers added language codifying an executive order establishing the minimum wage for federal contractors at $15 per hour as law. The provision also enables federal agencies to increase its contractor minimum wage if they choose.
But it’s not a done deal. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., has proposed an amendment for consideration by the Rules Committee that would remove that provision from the bill, although it is unlikely Democrats would agree to adopt the measure.
Elsewhere in the realm of federal compensation, Rep. Veronica Escobar successfully amended the bill to include a provision instructing the Office of Personnel Management, the Agriculture Department and the Interior Department to establish a program to provide at least $1,000 recruitment and retention bonuses to federal wildland firefighters. The minimum amount of such a bonus would increase automatically each year based on the annual change in the consumer price index.
Additionally, some lawmakers have proposed additional measures for the Rules Committee to consider that would provide additional mental health services to wildland firefighters, as well as a measure to provide them housing stipends if they are hired at a location more than 50 miles from their primary residence.
FBI employees could see their civil service protections improve if the House version of the bill becomes law. An amendment from Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., would allow FBI workers who make reprisal allegations to appeal decisions by the bureau’s internal watchdog to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Additionally, if the FBI’s review board fails to issue a final decision in reprisal cases within 180 days, an employee would be able to seek redress directly from the MSPB.
Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., successfully amended the bill to include the text of a bill aimed at protecting inspectors general from political retaliation. The IG Independence and Empowerment Act (H.R. 2662), which was passed by the House in June 2021, establishes that inspectors general can only be removed from their positions for cause, requires a president to notify Congress prior to putting an IG in a non-duty status, requires that people can only serve in an acting capacity if they are current inspectors general or senior IG staff, and expands inspectors’ general investigative authorities, among other measures.
Although the bill passed the House last year, and a Senate committee advanced the legislation last November, it has since languished awaiting consideration on the Senate floor.