Senators want to cut some federal pay increases
WASHINGTON — Federal employees could see their 2006 annual raise disappear under budget cuts proposed by a group of seven Republican senators Tuesday, but military paychecks would be exempt.
Both the House and Senate have already approved a 3.1 percent pay increase for military personnel next year. An identical increase for federal employees, also approved, is now back on the table.
The plan, designed to offset costs for hurricane relief and reconstruction, also would include a 5 percent across-the-board cut for federal agencies’ 2006 budgets, excluding the Defense and Homeland Security departments.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said defense cuts would be too risky with the ongoing military operations overseas.
“It’s hard to separate Iraq spending from non-Iraq spending,” he said. “You always worry about those kind of effects with across-the-board cuts on defense.”
The budget-cutting plan is one of several proposed over the past month by members of Congress, who have already approved more than $62 billion for recovery efforts. Officials from the Congressional Budget Office estimate repairs to infrastructure and federal facilities alone will cost more than $35 billion in addition to the $62 billion figure.
The senators said their plan will save about $125 billion over the next two years. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said the relief spending must continue, but lawmakers cannot simply ignore the financial problems it creates.
“We want to continue that compassion without ignoring our responsibility for our children’s future,” he said. “Every family, every business that comes into hard times has to tighten their belts.”
Ensign said veterans health care programs also would be exempt from the budget cuts.
The federal transportation bill, however, would be gutted under the plan. McCain said about $25 billion of the savings would come from removing earmarks — additions inserted for pet projects — in the bill.
The plan also would temporarily delay the implementation of the new Medicare prescription drug program and create a commission to review the need for government programs, modeled after the Base Closure and Realignment Commission.
The COLA freeze would apply to all nonmilitary and non-law-enforcement federal workers.