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Republicans propose cutting federal pay raises

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Would freezing federal worker salaries help cut government costs? House Republicans think so, and are floating the idea as one of several potential government spending cuts.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) recently launched YouCut, an online contest designed to highlight government projects his colleagues consider wasteful. Participants are asked to vote each week on five proposed cuts and the most popular is then introduced by Republicans to the full House for an up or down vote.

This week's choices include cutting President Obama's proposed 1.4 percent pay raise for civilian federal workers from next year's budget. Republicans estimate the raises would cost taxpayers approximately $2 billion in fiscal 2011 and about $30 billion over the next decade.

Their proposal cites an oft-criticized USA Today analysis that found some federal workers are paid more than 20 percent more than private sector counterparts. (But Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag has called the analysis "misleading," arguing federal workers are generally more educated and experienced than private sector workers.)

The Republican proposal would not impact Obama's proposed 1.4 percent military pay raise (in keeping with the GOP's pro-military stance) and their estimates don't include the value of federal health and retirement benefits.

But would freezing pay raises really be a good way to cut government spending? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below or send extended replies to federaleye@washingtonpost.com. W may include your response as an answer to the Federal Worker Page Question of the Week.

Chat With The Eye: Join yours truly for a 60-minute discussion about the "don't ask, don't tell" compromise, the Senate's telework bill, proposed pay cuts and much more. Submit your questions here then join the chat at 11 a.m. ET.

Cabinet and Staff News: The Obama will spend Memorial Day Weekend in Chicago. They will also host a concert in honor of Paul McCartney next Wednesday. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the U.S. is in talks on how to deal with North Korea. Things aren't going well for former military officials in the Obama administration. Some suggest there shouldn't be a new national intelligence director. FDA's to tobacco regulator tells industry executives he will take a firm approach to overseeing the industry. White House officials take a "trust us" attitude to the Joe Sestak job offer affair.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
Study raises questions about military's brain injury assessment tool: Senior Officials have stressed they are doing everything they can to provide the best care possible to injured U.S. troops. But that might not be the case for the tens of thousands of troops who have experienced some form of brain injury.

Pentagon tries to steer media coverage on Iraq: The military plans to step up efforts to influence media coverage in that country -- as well as here at home.

Building security standards for civilian Defense Department workers questioned: Are the lives of Defense Department civilians worth more than the lives of other federal workers?

FBI:
Despite economy, FBI says U.S. violent crime rate is down again: It's down for the third consecutive year, including a 7.2 percent reduction in murder.

Former FBI employee sentenced for leaking classified papers: Federal prosecutors in Maryland have remained mum about exactly what was contained in the classified papers that Shamai K. Leibowitz, 39, gave an unnamed blogger.

GOVERNMENT WORK/LIFE/OPERATIONS:
Senate passes telework bill: The Telework Enhancement Act would make it easier for some federal employees to work from home.

Big federal job fair set for July 14: Agencies interested in recruiting can register here.

Obama seeking more control over budget: He's requesting an alternative to the line-item veto known as rescission, which would give him -- and future presidents -- the power to submit a package of changes to spending bills that Congress would be required to vote on.

MMS:
U.S. agency overseeing oil drilling ignored warnings of risks: Minerals Management Service officials, who receive cash bonuses for meeting federal deadlines on leasing offshore oil and gas exploration, frequently altered their own documents and bypassed legal requirements aimed at ensuring drilling does not imperil the marine environment.

Survey: MMS a bad place to work: The agency scored towards the bottom of the 2009 Best Places to Work survey.

MSHA:
MSHA probes whether Massey warned of inspections: Federal investigators are trying to determine whether the company would illegally warn workers when safety inspectors arrived at its operations.

NASA:
Shuttle Atlantis closes in on 120 million miles: The space craft undocked from the space station Sunday for the last time, leaving behind a new 20-foot compartment loaded with supplies and six fresh batteries.

NASA confirms demise of Phoenix Mars spacecraft: A recent image taken by an orbiting spacecraft appeared to show that one of its solar panels had collapsed from ice buildup.

SEC:
Regulators probe firms' role in stock plunge: SEC staffers said the possible retreat of big "liquidity providers" during the market plunge is an area of focus in the investigation

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By Ed O'Keefe  | May 25, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Eye Opener  
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Comments

I checked out YouCut. I didn't find an option to vote to cut the Dep't of Welfare (dba the Dep't of Agriculture).

Looks like Cantor thinks some useless socialism is good, after all.

Posted by: Garak | May 25, 2010 7:08 AM | Report abuse

In my opinion, skipping a pay raise for 1 year wouldn't hurt us, as long as our Congress members are taking a cut as well. Look at most people who have LOST their jobs and unable to regain employment.

Posted by: ksimms1 | May 25, 2010 7:40 AM | Report abuse

The statement that Federal workers make only 20% more then civilians for the same job has been shown to be very conservative, most studies I have read state that the true amount is closer to 50% and the statement that they are more intelligent must have been made in jest, how could a organization that has inside hiring practices, distorted views on there contributions to the public which are laughable inside the beltway coupled with outlandish retirement benefits helping us taxpayers. Congressman Cantor I applaud your actions and wish you the best of luck because they have a powerful union which ensures that they are always protected at the cost of the taxpayers. I say cut there pay 50% and place them on social security instead would be a good start followed by a drastic reduction on number of employees and prohibiting them from having another federal job after retirement or being a advisor as a civilian.

Posted by: paulb6 | May 25, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Go ahead and try it....let's see how that brilliant move increases morale and boosts productivity of the federal work force. The problem with you fed-bashers is that like the majority of teabaggers and right wing inbreds you're IQ's are only slightly higher than your shoe size. Quit bashing and get a life.

Posted by: dem4life1 | May 25, 2010 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Basing any legislative action on what "some" people have or do isn't really very smart. By definition, "some" is an exception. Dang right, paulb6, when I retire I'm not planning on getting another federal job.

Posted by: ronjaboy | May 25, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

As someone who worked in the private sector and as a Federal government contractor, I know this to be untrue! I am an IT Manager and took a paycut to work for the Fed. I had always heard how much superior Fed benefits are when compared to the private sector. I found this to no be accurate as well. The cost of my health care and other benefits doubled on average. I reached a point in my life where the stability of Federal employment was more important than the significantly higher wages in the private sector. It was a trade-off I was willing to make for the benefit of my family. So far it's turned out to be a good decision. However, to say Feds earn 20% more than their private sector counterparts is simply NOT TRUE. Therefore, cutting pay raises for Federal workers will only widen the "true" disparity.

Posted by: repnice | May 25, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

with all the federal hiring, the next President will have billions to cut by downsizing obama's ego...

Posted by: DwightCollins | May 25, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Every federal worker thinks he can make more in the private sector. So, quit you federal job. What's stopping you?

Posted by: win_harrington | May 25, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Federal attorneys on average make a fraction of what they could make in the private sector. Elite entry level attorneys at DOJ make just over 60,000 dollars per year. Elite entry level attorneys at private law firms across the street from DOJ make 160,000 dollars per year (pre-bonus). With the rising cost of education, cutting pay for Federal workers could lead to a general degradation of the quality of the workforce.

Posted by: Noodles3 | May 25, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Pay raises, what's that? Federal retirees haven't had an increase in several years. Congress gives themselves a raise every year despite their dismal performance!

Posted by: Jimbo77 | May 25, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I think Cantor isn't being truthful. The 1.4% adjustment is not a "pay raise", it is a cost of living adjustment (COLA), correct? Pay raises for federal workers are not determined by the president, they are determined by individual supervisors. Personally, I don't see a problem with the proposal, but be truthful about it. Also, some of the highest COLA adjustments occurred during the GW Bush administration and the Republicans weren't trying to eliminate the COLA during those years.

Posted by: jp13 | May 25, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Have to agree with repnice. I've worked in both private and federal sectors and for pay and benefits I'll take the private sector EVERY time. I can't speak for all jobs in the government but I can assure everyone that NO ONE working in IT for the government makes the kind of money you can make in the private sector. When I left the federal world I got a 30K pay raise for the same job and again the benefits were far better. I get the security reason for working for the government but we have 2 paychecks coming in so I didn't need security. Try living on a government workers paycheck and you'll understand why DC's traffic is so awful and why people have to live in Frederick and Fredericksburgh to be able to afford a home.

Posted by: BullyLover | May 25, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Knew it would happen. It is always the Federal employees who are targeted for addressing budget deficits. Why doesn't Congress take a pay cut? I would suggest 5% of each Congressman's salary go directly to reduce the budget deficit. Their votes have caused the massive deficit which is still rising. Let them bite the bullet with the rest of us.

Posted by: Fedup64 | May 25, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) are not pay raises, as a previous commenter has pointed out. COLA was designed to allow a worker to offset the loss of buying power caused by inflation.

Posted by: Sojouner | May 25, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Leave it to the republicans to tip the money their way and then freeze other pay. Let tax the billionaires 75%!!!

And lets tax bonuses to wall st at 100%

Posted by: pvogel88 | May 25, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Republicans continue their crusade to prove that government is incapable of solving problems by knee capping the government.

The best way to render your government feckless is to kill off its brain cells. Begin attacking worker pay, which is already below industry standards, and you'll see the best and brightest leave government. Then Republicans can talk about how awful Federal workers are, because the best of them are no longer working for the Federal government.

Posted by: AxelDC | May 25, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I'd happily take a pay cut if the Federal government would forgive the student loans for the education that I'm using to do their work.

BTW, Congressman Cantor, please tell my landlord and utility companies not to raise their rates next year. Since I live in Virginia, this shouldn't be a problem for you.

Thanks!

Posted by: AxelDC | May 25, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

The Republicans are always looking for cheap shots. Federal workers are a captive audience for the Republicans to "balance the budget" on their backs. One exception was Jimmy Carter who decimated the Federal workforce to "balance the budget". The Federal workforce lost the Civil Service Retirement System and was served with the terrible "windfall provision" which penalized the lowest paid workers (mostly women).

Posted by: pkbishop1 | May 25, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Pay cuts wouldn't be an issue if it was possible to fire any of the do-nothings.

Posted by: jiji1 | May 25, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Get our economy functioning and put people to work and this would not be an issue. Congress messes up qand the workers have to pay?

I am so not surprised.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | May 25, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Could save some money by not paying Congress when the appropriations bills are overdue. These days it takes them until February or March of the fiscal year to pass the darn budget, so why do we keep paying them when they haven't done their primary job? Sure, it would only save in the range of millions of dollars, but perhaps it would be motivating.

Posted by: kickabout | May 25, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Cantor's only pandering to the libetarian types. If they had their way, we wouldn't even have police or fire protection. In their view, all government services are unnecessary. Its a cost-of-living increase that attempts, but fails, to keep the spending power of an employee's salary the same. Its not a raise. In the last 26 years, these cost-of-living raises have not kept pace with inflation. Don't believe me. Use the consumer price index and convert your current salary to 1984 dollars. You will see that even with your step increases and promotions, you aren't making any more than you did in 1984. Your step increases and promotions didn't even quite cover the cost of inflation. Now that is depressing.

Posted by: AnnsThought | May 25, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I did a lateral from private to government. The benefit is in the perks not in the salary. $2 Billion is a savings - but so is $200 Billion that is slated to support the pensions, etc for the UNION persons in private industry. Save the 200 and allow the 2 to go through. Quit taking from the worker to support the non-worker.

Posted by: CassieCharlie | May 25, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Cut in wages Should include Obama's wages he sure had done nothing but travel and insult American Citizen tax Payer.
If you don't agree with him you will be taxed and belittled

Posted by: akeegan2 | May 25, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm a fed - I'd be fine with cutting the COLA. In a constrained environment - if it made the difference between cutting key services, programs etc? Absolutely, I could live without the COLA.

But in return for agreeing with the cut, could us feds get just the tiniest bit of respect and acknowledgement that we're not all stupid, lazy and useless? Because while I could live without the COLA, I could also live without the 10 and 11 hour days every day. I would enjoy visiting my family during the holidays (which I haven't done in five years because I can't get the time off around xmas or thanksgiving)...and you know - in a constrained environment I just can't afford to work on Saturdays anymore. I need to stay home; childcare is too expensive on the weekends; gotta balance the budget you know. Oh, and that blackberry that I'm tied to 24/7, answering all those pesky little urgent messages at 11pm at night? I'd like to give that back, thanks. I think that would be fair - you can take my cost of living adjustment back if I can have my quality of life back.

So Mr. Congressman, do we have a deal?

Posted by: vickistired | May 25, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for freezing federal salaries. If the public sector, who by the way pays those salaries, have to endure freezes and cuts, there's no justification for increases, or indeed the size of many of those salaries and guaranteed benefits packages. As for Peter Orszag; if he made that comment with a straight face, I fully understand why the public thinks there's such a great disconnect in Washington.

Posted by: Lilycat1 | May 25, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

if a majority of people work for the federal goverment...
and another large part is unemployed...
and the private sector dissappears, like now...
can it sustain the goverment...
can it sustain the country...
can it...

Posted by: DwightCollins | May 25, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Federal retirees, and Social Security recipients, and not receiving a COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment). If there is not COLA, i.e., no inflation in the cost of living, how is the increase justified?

Posted by: FredinVicksburg | May 25, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

"I'm all for freezing federal salaries. If the public sector, who by the way pays those salaries"

Federal employees pay federal taxes too.

Posted by: Skowronek | May 25, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I am all for cutting appointee salaries. I have personally known far too many political appointees who got their COLA + annual step raise + bonus raises + bonuses under both Bush II and Obama. Ridiculous. One example: a mid-30s staffer with next to no non-govt experience, who spent afternoons on facebook or at the beach. Or posting on facebook while at the beach. And talking about how he was at the beach, at 3:00 pm on a weekday. How do I know? He applied for a job at my company, was "insulted" that the salary range for someone with 7-8 years was "so far below" his appointee salary (seriously--$85-90K is insulting for a non-manager team position?)Well, I was insulted by what I saw when I googled him and found his facebook page, so we insulted him further by hiring someone else.

Posted by: charlottes_b | May 25, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

The raise for federal workers should be eliminated this year. Social Security recipients got no increase so what is the justification for giving more money to the federal work force?

Posted by: confused1 | May 25, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Cut Congressional pay in half. Cut their staffs in half.

Posted by: jckdoors | May 25, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Fully implementing the entire provisions of the Pay Comparability Act of 1990 would be a start..

Posted by: dritei | May 25, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Hey, wake up! We Feds are taxed just like you are and pay our own salaries as well.

Posted by: Fedup64 | May 25, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Do some people really believe that federal government workers don't pay taxes? Guess all idiots don't work for the government after all.

Posted by: Axel2 | May 25, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"Federal employees pay federal taxes too. "

Are you seriously making this argument? It's a frakking kickback.

Posted by: jiji1 | May 25, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

The bonuses are part of the salary and anyone who doesn't see that is simply ignoring it b/c it makes their argument sound better OR just doesn't accept how today's workforce is paid.

If they want to stop bonuses for those who make $200k or so...fine

But I fail to see how we should punish the hard-working people who make an average salary and live day-by-day like others

Posted by: Bious | May 25, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

After nearly 20 years in a prestigious science research lab, I took a pay cut to work in the federal government. Financially, I can withstand not getting a pay raise next year. I think I can even swallow this mentally if our useless, worthless congresspeople of both chambers take a 50% cut in their salaries and make half of their young, unschooled, arrogant, and power-hungry staffers work for free -- everyone knows that a job in Congress, either elected or a staff position, is just a pit stop to that lucrative next job on K street anyway, and that will more than make up having to eat at the (no doubt taxpayer) subsidized cafeterias in the Senate or House Office Buildings.

Posted by: kpdooty | May 25, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Trying to bring integrity and character into Congress is like restoring chastity to a brothel. They don't have the guts to do the right thing, and the right thing is to put a cap on all the favors those ratba$tards get from special interest groups, lobbyists, PACs, etc. Lets put a cap -- now -- on all entitlement spending and discretionary programs. Ask federal employees to take a 5% cut and to hell with the unions. If bargaining unit employees are faced with continuing their dues withholdings to a bunch of welfare statist thugs or to use that money to help provide for their families, common sense would win and the unions would dry up. Kill all earmarks. Get rid of that money laundering exercise known as the Department of Education. Oh, and maybe Michelle can do with less personal staff, since many of us in both public and private sector do just fine with none.

Posted by: VeritusMaximus | May 25, 2010 11:10 PM | Report abuse

If they want to cut federal salaries, they should start with Congress. Congressional members are far less productive than the average federal worker.

Posted by: builder701 | May 26, 2010 6:27 AM | Report abuse

I think government should stop bailing out private industry. How about that? If Private Industry produced something and started living within their means -we wouldn't be in this mess. Private industry needs to undertand what "work" means. "Work" is not making up pyramid schemes, lying, stealing and cheating hard working people out of their money so they can roll dice at the craps table (stock market). With zero interest rates, housing subsidies, cash for clunkers, you name the bailout - the private industry (most Republicans) have a lot of nerve complaining.
Take your gifts, make up new games and stop picking on Federal Employees. Look at yourselves - produce something!!

Posted by: Cantora | May 26, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Mcain and Coburn are scrambling around coming up with goofy ideas to offset 120 billion in spending on those stupid wars. Well here is a novel idea, why don't they just start at the source and stop wasting money on stupid wars. The republicans just love to be the universe's policeman and can't resist nation building around the globe. Add up the cost of that once. The piddling 2 billion in savings on federal salaries would be lost in the rounding of the pennies. By the way it isn't really a 2 billion dollar savings. A large portion of that money is returned to the treasury via taxes and contributions to pensions/social security.
For those of you bashing the feds you should spend some of your energy contemplating why the taxpayers are paying the FULL cost of health care (and it is a grand health plan)for all of the current GM employees. Nice gig for them. World's best insurance plan and even though their company is bankrupt they pay zero for health insurance.

Posted by: jmellis1 | May 26, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Picking on feds again! Nothing new there. That is why the pay parity bill that GHW Bush passed in 1990 has never been fully implemented - every year Clinton, GW, and now Obama purposely allow the bill to expire and we get a negotiated pay raise instead. Lets see, affecting the pay of every fed will only save about 1% of the budget deficit and, as someone already pointed out in the comments, make feds move even further out to live where their salary allows them to. I don't know about any other fed, but my division has not given even tiny bonuses in years! How about instead we increase the tax rate on the Wall Street types and other people making $1 million plus. That would bring in a lot more money. But Republicans are not interested in budget reduction. Otherwise we would see some tax increases. They are interested in firing up their base with the equivalent of feds are welfare queens who waste taxpayers money.

Posted by: cpusss | May 26, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

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