Fedweek

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Updated: The House this week briefly interrupted its summer recess to address several bills of high priority for the Democratic leadership there, including a budget measure (S.Con.Res. 14) that could open the door for broadening of paid leave for federal employees.

That measure, called a reconciliation bill, will serve as the vehicle for enacting numerous Biden administration initiatives with only a simple majority vote needed in the Senate, in contrast to the normal 60-vote threshold required there of significant bills. It passed Tuesday (August 24) on a party-line vote.

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The bill assigns congressional committees with spending targets to be reached through passage of specific language later. One of those instructions, for the House Oversight and Reform Committee could be used to pursue a long-standing priority of its chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.—changing from unpaid to paid the leave allowed for all purposes under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Currently, employees may take paid time for parental purposes under that law; the committee recently passed, although with sharp party division, a measure (HR-564) to expand that to other FMLA purposes including medical needs for individuals and certain family members.

The House also approved a voting rights bill, HR-4, but set aside until September an infrastructure spending bill (HR-3684) that the Senate recently passed with some Republican support.

Apart from this week, Congress is set to conduct only committee business until the week after Labor Day, with only 10 voting days scheduled from then until the end of the month, when spending authority for most federal programs will need to be renewed. The House has passed 10 of the 12 regular appropriations bills but the Senate hasn’t moved on any, meaning a temporary extension will be needed to prevent partial agency shutdowns.

Also in the mix is the need to raise the federal debt ceiling; it already has been passed, but the government is using a number of maneuvers to get some of that debt off the government’s books temporarily. The money freed up by those maneuvers is projected to run out within months, although the exact timing will depend on spending patterns, including spending of previously appropriated pandemic relief funds. The government never has defaulted on the debt although the threat often has been used as leverage for political purposes.

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2022 Federal Employees Handbook