The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to begin work today (Wednesday) on the general government appropriations bill, the key measure for federal employee workplace policies. The House counterpart committee already has cleared its version, which by remaining silent would allow a January 2018 pay raise–most likely 1.9 percent–to take effect by default.
The Senate panel has followed the House’s lead for four years running in consenting to a raise by inaction. With a recess just ahead for Congress, it’s not expected that either measure will advance further until after Labor Day. By that time an order from the White House would be due setting a default figure; traditionally that has been the same number it recommended in its budget proposal, which this year was 1.9 percent.
The House meanwhile plans to vote this week on a package of appropriations bills that have cleared the committee and then use that as the vehicle for resolving the other, more controversial, bills later. The general government measure is not one of those initially included–not because of the employee-related provisions but rather because the measure also contains disputed provisions affecting financial regulatory agencies, which it also funds.
Among the planned amendments to the House measure (HR-3219) is a bipartisan one that would continue the years-long moratorium on conducting Circular A-76 studies for possible contracting-out of federal jobs to the private sector. The House general government bill would allow those studies again by being silent on the issue, although the Senate committee has acted to keep the moratorium on A-76 studies in place during that time, with the House ultimately consenting.
Meanwhile, it’s unclear when the Senate will vote on its version of the annual DoD authorization bill as that chamber’s attention has been focused on health care and other matters, and due to the illness of Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain, R-Ariz. Like the House bill, the Senate version contains mostly routine extensions of special hiring and pay authorities at DoD, but it also would be the most likely vehicle to carry the administration’s proposal to increase the buyout maximum to $40,000 government-wide.