It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas will be just ahead before Congress and the White House decide on key funding and policy matters affecting federal employees that have been pending since early in the year.
Last week’s enactment of a temporary funding measure for agencies through December 20 basically extended an extension that had carried from the start of the fiscal year October 1 through November 21. As with the first extension, the current authority generally continues funding at fiscal 2019 levels, with some exceptions.
The current measure similarly created a new deadline for officials to act or else let a partial government shutdown occur, almost a year to the day after a similar deadline last year—which political leaders allowed to pass, triggering a partial shutdown that ultimately lasted more than a month. Unlike last year when regular funding was in place for a number of Cabinet departments and other agencies, this year none of the regular appropriations bills have been passed. Also once again, border security policy and spending is a major hangup.
The lack of regular appropriations bills has left undecided a number of policies affecting federal employees, most notably the prospect for the raise in January. It’s virtually certain that there will be one because unlike last year when President Trump ordered a pay freeze by default when no number had been enacted before year’s end, this year he has said he would provide a 2.6 percent across the board raise.
The Senate has in effect consented to that by taking no position on a raise but the House wants to provide that raise plus 0.5 percentage points on top to be divided as locality pay, likely resulting in raises from several tenths of a percentage point below 3.1 percent to several tenths above.
Congress could yet enact the general government appropriations bill that decides the raise—either separately or as part of a package wrapping together many or even all 12 of those spending bills through the remainder of the current fiscal year. However, another temporary extension until sometime early in 2020 also is a possibility; that most likely would allow Trump’s default raise to occur, leaving proponents of the higher figure to try to get a further boost enacted retroactively.
Also at issue in that bill is House language to prevent any further breakup of OPM, which already has lost its background investigative function to DoD; the administration wants to further send its other operating divisions to the GSA while putting its policy functions in a new sub-office of OMB.