Fedweek

If Congress does not specify a raise figure for the following January, the most likely outcome would be the 4.6 percent raise that President Biden has proposed. Image: Tupungato/Shutterstock.com

Congress has started to write several key annual bills that become the vehicles for decisions on the following year’s federal employee pay raise along with, typically, other federal workplace policies.

The House Appropriations Committee is set to produce starting this week the first version of the general government spending bill, one of a dozen measures for agency spending each fiscal year. In some years Congress specifies a raise figure for the following January although in most recent years, it has remained silent, ultimately allowing the President to set a raise by default.

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If that proves to be the case again this year, the most likely outcome would be the 4.6 percent raise that President Biden included in his budget proposal earlier this year. The initial figure proposed by the White House sometimes has changed during the course of the year but in most cases Presidents have stuck with their original recommendation.

Federal employee organizations and some Democrats in Congress have been pushing for a 5.1 percent increase but they face an uphill battle since Biden also recommended 4.6 percent for uniformed military personnel.

The counterpart Senate committee has not started its process of writing a counterpart bill. With Congress scheduled to be in session for just seven more weeks before the new fiscal year begins October 1—and then to recess through the elections—there is a general expectation that a stopgap measure once again will be enacted and the raise and other budget-related issues won’t be settled until late in the year.

Congress could boost the military raise—and with it, potentially the federal employee raise—but in the early stages of drafting a separate bill, the annual DoD authorization, it has moved toward accepting the 4.6 percent figure for the military. The House Armed Services Committee could finish work on that bill as soon as this week, with the Senate counterpart committee starting work this week.

That bill often becomes the vehicle for personnel policy changes not just affecting DoD employees but also government-wide, since it is one of the few “must-pass” annual bills. So far in the early stages of progress no such provisions have been raised, however.

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