Fedweek

Congress has started the process of writing the bills that set spending levels and make policy decisions for the upcoming fiscal year, including matters such as agency staffing levels and the next federal pay raise.

The Appropriations committees of both the House and Senate have been holding hearings on the administration’s budget plan issued in late March, the first step in a process designed to result in enactment of a dozen measures by September 30. However, in practice the typical outcome is enactment of one or more temporary measures with final decisions not reached until months later.

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That again appears to be the most likely outcome, with Congress scheduled to be in session only most of 10 weeks before that deadline, and then recess for all of October until mid-November after the mid-term elections. In many recent years only the House has made substantial progress on the individual spending bills, with the Senate often producing only broad outlines and then working out details in later meetings with the House.

Among the issues that has been attracting early attention in one of those bills, the general government measure, is the potential size of the January 2023 federal employee raise. President Biden has proposed a 4.6 percent average increase, with some variance by locality, while federal employee organizations and many Democrats in Congress have been advocating for 5.1 percent.

Another common practice of recent years, though, is for Congress to take no position on the raise, leaving the decision in the President’s hands—generally resulting in a default raise of what he originally recommended.

Issues regarding staffing levels meanwhile have been raised so regarding the IRS and the VA, and federal law enforcement entities including CBP and Bureau of Prisons.

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