Fedweek

Washington DC - Furloughed as well as unpaid working federal employees, union members, contractors and supporters protesting at an AFL-CIO organized rally on Jan. 10 2019.

Sponsors of a bill that has passed the House, and that now moves to the Senate, to pay a retroactive 2019 raise of 2.6 percent say the boost would be something of a make-up gesture to federal employees in the wake of the partial shutdown and other recent difficulties.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland called the shutdown “the latest in the long list of attacks on our hardworking federal civilian workforce. The Federal Civilian Workforce Pay Raise Fairness Act is an important step in treating federal employees with the respect they deserve and compensating them for the financial stress” of the shutdown, he said.

Sponsor Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., similarly said that passage of the raise would “reaffirm our conviction that public servants – civilian and military alike – deserve better than the shutdowns, furloughs, and pay freezes.”

Just as the House prepared to vote, companion legislation was offered in the Senate by Maryland Democrats Chris Van Hollen, who said the higher figure is justified “in light of the added costs imposed on federal workers by the shutdown,” and Ben Cardin, who said it “would be a helpful measure in restoring faith in a system that left them in financial limbo for a record 35 days.”

Boosting the amount from the 1.9 percent that has been under consideration for months as an alternative to President Trump’s favored pay freeze—which took effect by default when Congress did not legislate a figure by the end of 2018 but still can be overturned—also in effect would reinstate the practice of “pay parity” with military personnel, who received a 2.6 percent increase as of the start of this year under a defense budget bill. Pay parity had been a common practice for many years, although it has largely been abandoned in more recent years.

Although the 2.6 percent figure is being considered as a stand-alone bill, a raise most likely would be enacted as part of the final general government spending bill covering the remainder of this fiscal year. Such a bill probably won’t reach voting until some longer-term agreement on the budget is reached. The House vote would put that chamber on record as favoring that amount in that bill.