The Senate has joined the House in recessing without having directly addressed a number of important pocketbook issues for federal employees and retirees, although Congress did lay some groundwork for decisions to be made in September and beyond.
The House drafted–but did not call to a floor vote–a budget outline calling for a move to raise required contributions toward retirement and to end the FERS “special retirement supplement,” the latter presumably only for those retiring after a future date. Details would be left to another measure, which like the outline would face opposition not only from Democrats but from factions of Republican on both ends of that party’s spectrum.
The House meanwhile made some progress on appropriations bills for the fiscal year that starts in October, passing a measure tying together several bills that had passed the committee level. However, no clear path has emerged to enacting new spending for all agencies, needed by October 1 to prevent a partial government shutdown like the one that occurred in 2013. The same is true regarding the need to raise the federal debt ceiling by late September. Both types of deadlines have commonly been used as leverage in spending and tax policy decisions.
During voting on that spending bill the House did oppose the Trump administration’s proposal to restart the Circular A-76 contracting out process, as well as its request for another round of DoD base closings–a position it also took in passing a separate budget bill for DoD. The Senate put off consideration of both bills to after the recess.
Meanwhile, by remaining silent in a separate spending bill, the House Appropriations Committee signaled that it is open to granting a federal employee raise in January, most likely the 1.9 percent that President Trump proposed. The Senate also has yet to take up a counterpart to that bill.
And neither chamber has directly addressed the administration’s proposal to raise the buyout maximum from $25,000 to $40,000 government-wide–although the House defense bill did back extending DoD’s already existing authority to pay that higher amount. From an agency’s viewpoint, offering buyouts early in a fiscal year makes the most sense since it has time to recoup the upfront costs by not filling the position.
However, it’s still unclear whether buyouts–commonly paired with early retirement offers–will become widely available. Many agencies have had their eye on the possibility since the administration first outlined its budget plans but so far the spending bills advancing in Congress would provide more funding than the White House requested for many agencies. That, too, was left to be decided in the fall.