Both Houses of Congress will be back at work next week following an extended spring break, with much of the year’s work on federal workplace issues likely to be concentrated in the immediate upcoming months. Congress plans to be in session for 11 of the next 14 weeks but then recess from mid-July until September, work that month and then recess again until mid-November. One immediate question is how a budget for the fiscal year starting October 1 will be handled; the Senate hasn’t even drafted an outline and may not. The House has written one–containing many proposed benefit cuts for federal employees and other workplace changes–but may not call it to a vote due to disagreements over funding levels. The House already is starting to work on the spending bills that fund agencies and set policies but likely won’t start voting on any until mid-May at the earliest. The Senate likely will draft at least some of its own bills but Congress likely will pass only several before the fall recess and some sort of temporary funding measure reaching beyond the elections already is widely expected. It’s unknown whether the key measure for federal employee programs, the general government appropriations bill, will be among those gaining attention in the time ahead. That bill was relatively non-controversial for many years but that hasn’t been as true in more recent years, largely because it funds the IRS and financial regulatory agencies. That bill also typically specifies the following year’s pay raise, or by being silent allows one to take effect by default–the practice of the last three years which if followed again most likely would result in a 1.6 percent raise in January.
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