The impact of the change of the House to Democratic control is starting to show in the budget process where important policy decisions affecting federal employees and retirees annually are made.
Those leaders have said they don’t plan to draft a budget “resolution” for the fiscal year beginning October 1, instead moving a measure to set broad new spending limits without requiring offsetting cuts or taking positions on specific programs. A budget resolution is a planning document that commonly orders Capitol Hill committees, including the ones overseeing federal workforce matters, to achieve savings.
The Senate Budget Committee already has approved a budget resolution that assumes enactment of a law requiring employees to pay more into the retirement system. However, it is questionable whether that measure now will even receive a full Senate vote, since there will be no House bill to be addressed in a conference between the two. That is a reversal of recent prior years when the House under Republican leadership had passed such measures but stalled when the Senate didn’t produce a counterpart.
As in those years, the focus now is shifting to writing the bills that fund agencies, including the general government appropriations bill that is the main vehicle for decisions including personnel policies and pay and benefits matters. In the first firm step toward writing that bill, Democratic leaders of the House Oversight and Reform Committee recommended no funding for the administration’s request to shift most of OPM’s operations to the GSA, saying they have “grave concerns” about the potential impact on the civil service as OPM’s policy-making role would move into the White House.
Those leaders previously had said they opposed raising retirement contributions as well as the numerous other proposals in the White House budget that would lessen the value of retirement benefits. They further are backing a 3.6 percent raise for January 2020 contrary to the administration proposal to provide no raise. Those and other issues likely will be addressed when the Appropriations Committee writes and moves that bill through the House, which commonly occurs in the summer.