Fedweek

The Senate has been focused on confirmations and other issues, leaving the latest House-passed virus relief bill in limbo.

The Senate has given no signs of an intent to take up soon – if at all—a House-passed pandemic relief bill containing provisions important to federal workers, while House leaders have said they will start moving long-delayed spending bills that also will address federal workplace issues.

House Democratic leaders said that with provisions having been made for remote voting through proxies — a process to which Republicans still object — they intend to start moving the annual appropriations bills and the annual DoD authorization bill, among other priority items, with a goal of voting on at least some by the end of next month.

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The key appropriations bill for federal workers is the financial services-general government bill, which typically is where Congress specifies a pay raise for the following year. However, in some years it has remained silent, allowing a raise to be set by default.

President Trump has recommended a 1 percent raise for January 2021 and already has said that will be the default number should Congress not enact a figure by year’s end. Federal employee organizations and some Democrats in Congress are seeking 3.5 percent.

That measure, along with the annual DoD authorization, often also contains workplace policy decisions government-wide.

The House has not announced a schedule for moving the 12 appropriations bills, though, and it’s questionable whether many, if any, of them will be enacted before the October 1 start of the new budget year—requiring a temporary extension, potentially until after the elections, to prevent a partial government shutdown.

The Senate has been focused on confirmations and other issues, leaving the latest House-passed virus relief bill in limbo. That measure among other things would strengthen policies on telework, weather and safety leave and hazardous duty pay while creating a presumption that employees whose jobs involve certain duties are eligible for FECA compensation benefits if they contract the virus. The White House further has threatened to veto that bill although the message did not refer to any of those provisions.

2020 GS locality tables

Meanwhile, the House has approved S-3084, previously passed by the Senate, to exclude SES-equivalent health care positions at the VA from an existing pay cap, with the intent of improving the department’s ability to recruit and retain in such positions.

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