Bill to end shutdown makes possible 1 percent raise for civilians
WASHINGTON — This week’s bill that ended the government shutdown and averted a federal default clears the way for a 1 percent pay raise for federal employees, in what would be their first salary hike since 2010.
Although the 35-page bill does not explicitly mention the raise, it also does not explicitly freeze pay as congressional appropriations bills did in 2011, 2012 and this year. That means President Barack Obama has the authority to implement the raise, as he stated he intended to do in a letter to Congress in August along with a proposed federal employee pay plan.
“Civilian federal employees have already made significant sacrifices as a result of a three-year pay freeze,” Obama wrote to House and Senate leaders on Aug. 30. “As our country continues to recover from serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare, however, we must maintain efforts to keep our nation on a sustainable fiscal course.”
Congress could still block the pay raise before the end of the calendar year, but the Democratic-controlled Senate is unlikely to let that happen.
This week’s bill also authorized back pay for federal employees who were furloughed during the 16-day government shutdown. The House and Senate passed the bill in a rush Thursday night, and it was signed into law by Obama shortly thereafter.
Members of the military will also get a 1 percent pay raise in January, under the National Defense Authorization Act. The raise is reduced from the 1.7 percent military members received this past January.
This week’s bill does prohibit any pay raise for members of Congress during the 2014 fiscal year. Members of Congress receive an annual salary of $174,000.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, praised the pay raise in a joint statement with her Maryland colleague, Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin.
“I’m proud to have fought on the front lines for federal employee pay as hard as federal employees fight on the front lines each and every day for America,” Mikulski said. “The promise of a modest pay raise and back pay for furloughed government employees are good first steps in recognizing the value of federal workers. They have been the targets of unending attacks. They’ve been furloughed, laid off and locked out through no fault of their own.”
Cardin said employees were already reeling from the government shutdown, three-year pay freeze, sequestration cuts and furloughs.
“These hardworking public servants did not cause our economic crisis, but they paid a heavy price,” Cardin said. “I’m proud we were able to fulfill our promise to make them whole again with back pay and finally break through the pay freeze with a modest adjustment for next year.”