Both chambers of Congress are in session this week but with no budget measure available for voting and another recess planned for next week, it appears that decisions on key issues affecting federal employees won’t be made until December — potentially just ahead of a December 11 deadline to prevent a partial government shutdown.
A temporary funding measure in effect since the end of September expires as of that date, still with none of the 12 regular appropriations bills having been enacted.
The Senate did take a step last week in releasing draft versions of each of those measures but they differ in numerous and significant ways from the 10 bills the House passed earlier in the year.
A needed conference between the two further will be complicated by the political fallout from the elections as well as the potential addition of further pandemic relief funding — an issue on which Congress and the White House have been deadlocked since the last major relief bill passed in the spring.
In similar situations, Congress has bought more time through additional temporary extensions until nearly year’s end; an extension into next year also is possible, although currently considered less likely.
Among the measures still pending final action is the general government spending bill, which determines the upcoming federal employee raise. The White House has proposed a 1 percent across the board boost and the House would allow that to take effect by default by not specifying an increase, but the Senate bill advocates a pay freeze.
That is one of several differences between the two; the House version for example contains language aimed at preventing agencies from imposing policies in areas that previously were negotiated with unions unless there is a new contract agreement or a binding arbitration award — a bid to block a Trump administration policy that a Biden administration is expected to reverse. The Senate version further would effectively bar the TSP from expanding the international stock I fund to include stocks of Chinese companies.
Both however would continue a long-running ban on conducting “Circular A-76” studies for possibly converting federal jobs to contractors.