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The prospects for a 2.7 percent federal employee pay raise in January have advanced another step, with release of a spending bill by Democratic leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee that effectively endorses that amount.

By remaining silent regarding the raise, the general government appropriations measure would allow President Biden’s raise recommendation to take effect by default. Biden in August said that if Congress did not enact a specific figure into law by year’s end he would use his authority under federal pay law to provide the 2.7 percent raise he recommended in his budget proposal earlier in the year. He added at the time that he would split the raise as 2.2 percent paid across the board and funds for the other 0.5 percent divided up as locality pay.


The House already has passed its own version of that measure also accepting Biden’s recommendation by default. By following suit, the Senate meanwhile has most likely ended prospects for the 3.2 percent increase advocated by federal employee unions and some Democrats in Congress.

Both versions further would continue a long-standing policy of capping raises for wage grade employees, who are under a separate locality system, at the amount paid to GS employees locally and denying a raise for political appointees.

Also like the House bill, the Senate measure would lift a long-standing general ban on abortion coverage in FEHB plans but would continue other long-standing provisions including a ban on conducting “Circular A-76” studies that can lead to contracting-out of federal jobs.

It’s uncertain whether the Senate committee will bring that bill to a vote there and in the full Senate. The bill, along with other appropriations bills released at the same time, instead could be used in negotiations with the House over a catchall spending bill to cover the remainder of the fiscal year that started October 1.

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