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GOP wins could mean pay cuts for fed workers

By Joe Davidson
Washington Post Editor

What a difference an Election Day makes.

Republican legislation affecting federal employees that went nowhere in an 111th Congress controlled by Democrats now will see the sunshine in the 112th, with the House of Representatives controlled by the GOP.

Bills to freeze or cut federal pay, to fire federal workers who are delinquent taxpayers, and to limit or reduce the federal workforce soon will get a friendlier hearing.

But that doesn't mean those measures will become law when the new Congress convenes in January. In many cases, they will be blocked by Democrats who will still run the Senate or by President Obama, who isn't going anywhere--at least not now.

Whether they become law or not, the tenor of the debate will change.

Here are some of the proposals that may have new life in the Republican-led House:

-- Federal employees would be told to take two weeks off without pay, under a plan by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), who says it will save $5.5 billion. Members of Congress also would be called to sacrifice by taking a 10-percent pay cut.

-- Federal raises and bonuses would be frozen for one year, and the number of employees would be capped, under legislation sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

-- The growth in the federal workforce would be cut by limiting hires to one for every two retirees, under a measure proposed by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.). Her bill excludes the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, which are among the government's largest employers.

-- The federal workforce, with exceptions for security-related agencies, would shrink through attrition to February 2009 levels under legislation offered by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

-- The plan to fire federal employees who fall behind in their taxes is being pushed by Coburn and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

-- The number of political appointees would drop to 2,000 from about 3,500 under a plan pushed by McCain and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who was defeated on Tuesday.

-- Legislation sponsored by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) that would have eliminated the proposed 1.4 percent pay raise for federal employees was defeated in the House this year, but next year may be a different story.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Joe Davidson  | November 3, 2010; 8:11 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Workplace Issues  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Federal hiring changes bring hope, skepticism
Next: With GOP win, Issa previews his oversight plans


If a long-term pay freeze is put into effect for federal workers, you're going to see a lot of federal workers become private contractors, who in turn will be contracted by the government at a higher salary. Makes a lot of sense to me.

Posted by: kendall015 | November 3, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Closing the government for two weeks is a well-thought-out plan that doesn't scream of a cheap political ploy, and it will have no repercussions whatsoever.

Posted by: DragonofAnger | November 3, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

All the talented Federal workers will leave. The remaining won't be able to handle the sometimes very complex tasks assigned to them.

Wouldn't it be better to fire the incompetent ones and give better pay to the ones which actually produce like in private business?

Posted by: ExWallStreetGuy | November 3, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

You mean, in a down economy with falling tax revenues there may actually be efforts to cut spending, sort of like every private business has had to do the past couple years?

What a novel idea....

Posted by: dbw1 | November 3, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

As a 22 year fed I would support all of these recommendations, especially a reduction in the number of political appointees. Additionally, I would ask the remaining politicals to take a 25% reduction in pay. Many are vastly under-qualified for their positions/pay grades and under a standard application would not even be interviewed. These reductions should remain permanent.

Posted by: Raggs22 | November 3, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Here is one big waste of federal tax payers money: Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence Kansas, a Native American college run by the U.S. government under the direction of Mr. Larry Echohawk. Just look at what is happening there: A lost of their President, a Penn State grad, A Harvard accepted,A Ph.D but someone who actaully wanted to make Haskell a true university..not allowed??? So she must go??? Someone at top, maybe, President Obama, needs to take a look at this situation. Since Dr. Warner left campus about a year ago, Haskell's graduation rate dropped to nine percent!!!! Crime, including rape has went up. Why is Haskell still open?? We want to know too.

Posted by: haskellnewscommentary | November 3, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Linda Sue Warner leaves Haskell Indian Nations University; Accepts new post.

Dr. Linda Sue Warner has accepted a new post within the Bureau of Indian Education and resigned as President of Haskell Indian Nations University, in Lawrence, Kansas. The announcement was made earlier today by Mr. Larry Echohawk, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs and months ago by George Tiger.

In the time that she was on campus, Dr. Warner tried to make vast improvements at Haskell, which were often met with criticism from The Haskell Board of Regents, who twice took a vote of no confidence against her. (We wonder how many times Dr. Warner took a vote of no confidence on them). However, this is a Board of Regents (many of whom themselves hold less then a bachelor’s degree and have been on Haskell’s board for way too many years), who since Dr.Warner’s departure from campus over a year ago, have stood by and let graduation rates drop to less than any other post-secondary institution we can find, the same Board of Regents that expected to get paid the minute they set foot on campus and the same Board that let the crime on Haskell’s campus get out of hand. You can thank Stephanie Birdwell and Larry Echohawk for supporting the Regents.

Improvements at Haskell somehow threatened them, and other members of the Haskell faculty (especially the ones who were called on the carpet for not doing their jobs).

Dr. Warner was way ahead of her time for the Haskell bureaucracy, at least she tried. Today the country will try to right itself as it elects new leaders; it is too late for Haskell and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute.

We tip our hats to Dr. Linda Sue Warner and wish her the best in her new endeavors.

haskellnews commentary Nov 02, 2010

Posted by: haskellnewscommentary | November 3, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Haskell will always continue to struggle. There is no vision, no planning, no motivation from employees to want to make a difference. It is a government funded agency and cannot function properly like a true postsecondary institution. The board members are not committed, didn't they cancel a board meeting recently due to lack of quorum? If this is true this is a reflection on them as leaders who only lead when it is convenient and beneficial to themselves. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education are at a critical juncture. With one postsecondary school (SiPI, Haskell's sister schoo) who has lost accreditation, how far behind is Haskell? Some major restructuring needs to happen starting at the top. I find it hard to believe Haskell's leadership worries are at the top of Echohawk's agenda. And with the recent elections, aren't Haskell stakeholders a little concerned?

Posted by: haskellnewscommentary | November 3, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

How about a literacy test for bureaucrats? Get rid of any who can't read, can't write, or say "aks."

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 3, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

The Haskell Indian Nations University's tuition will always be free to enrolled members. Dr.Warner tried to raise fees from $250/yr to $1000/yr as a way for Haskell to become more self reliant and in control of what monies would be on hand.

The currents continue to hold out there hands to the US gubment and apparently teach the Haskell students, if nothing else through example, that the great white father will always provide for the broken Indian. You would think that four hundred years would have rang a bell by now.

As a university, Haskell has certain responsibilities which include producing qualified graduates and research. I wonder if "listening sessions", flying about the country, qualifies as research?

Dr. Warner's had a vision of Haskell expanding its degree options and perhaps even creating a graduate program from the current four degrees that Haskell offers today. The Haskell actings apparently canceled that accreditation process for no obvious reason, although a few student-apologists offered reasons including metaphors to creative writing. Another apologist offered this little ditty from a 090 Philosophy class "the degree options weren't technically lost because they never existed in the first place" (Profound huh?)

Anyway, I can guess that the "acting" administration
have not lost a dime from their federal paychecks (what have the students lost?) and federal employee benefits and that, in my finest opinion, is the basis for resistance to Dr.Warner's vision.

The federal employees at Haskell would have to actually perform. I believe that this would be called bullying by a population who has been conditioned to halftime work for full time pay. The bottom line is that there appears to be a resistance to change and a resistance to work.

Posted by: haskellnewscommentary | November 3, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

"How about a literacy test for bureaucrats? Get rid of any who can't read, can't write, or say" "aks." Try giving that one to the federal employees at Haskell !!!

Posted by: haskellnewscommentary | November 3, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I think it would be a great idea to implement "Early-Outs" under Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA). This would be an excellent tool to quickly reduce the size of the federal workforce on a voluntary basis.

Posted by: snoopdoggy | November 3, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the Early outs, you would reduce the federal workfoce by almost 300k people if that happen. I been in for 20 years, so if they do decide to make us take two weeks, do I choose t hose weeks, or can I take individual days that will equal up to 2 weeks. I agree on the 1.4 increase thats not necessary for now. We also have to sacrifice, so I am down for that. Besides, I can always get a part-time job.

Posted by: Sincear2021 | November 3, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Why not just figure out what you want the employees to stop doing and eliminate those programs?

Posted by: pbassjbass | November 3, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

The cushion for Federal retirees is much too soft. This needs to be stopped. Why should they be allowed to retire at salary level and COLAs beyond what other Americans get? Why should they have better, less expensive health insurance than the rest of us? Why should they have such great expense accounts, cars, and free travel?

I personally know Military retirees, officers of course, who are living like millionaires. Both Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were government employees, and both retired as multi-millionaires, have side by side mansions on Chesepeake Bay, among othr properties.

In other words, everyone has the opportunity to work hard and become wealthy, but some Federal Employees know how to use the system and seem to get there a lot faster. They aren't the ones that will be hurt though, it will again be the little guy.

Posted by: cashmere1 | November 3, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Saving $5.5 Billion of a $1.42 Trillion deficit is 0.38%

Posted by: haroldhendu | November 3, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Since it would only be 0.38%, please send me $5.5 billion. In fact, I'll settle for $5.4 billion if you do it by 7pm. Thank you.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 3, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

To: exwallstreetguy'

What products are produced by government employees that reach a market where after-tax dollars change hands?

Production from private businesses reach the market where after-tax dollars are are voluntarily exchanged for the items or services.

Posted by: wpcnola | November 3, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse

I would once again caution people not to get too excited at this point. Running for office and governing always end up being very different. Many of those running for office got on the anti-government bandwagon to create an issue that they could make people think it was government that created the economic mess we are in. I would say, yes, government played a big role in the problem, but it was the elected politicians not the civil service.

Now, if they want to really encourage change, they need to lead and get our nation rebuilt. We all have a role in that, and while we are at it, before more blame gets tossed on public servants, lets take a look at the worth of the top 5% who are worth upwards of $40 trillion. That is a problem. If you don't believe me, ask David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's former budget director.

I'm not going to go out and wax eloquent about the Democrats, but we should really reexamine the huge sums of money that influence people, but fail to educate them, and the Republicans outspent the Democrats in massive ways, many of whom still lost.

And, for the record, I'm Independent who considers issues, not parties and especially not narrow ideologies. Give me results, not theories, and take a look at what history teaches us.

Posted by: MTWRider | November 3, 2010 10:11 PM | Report abuse

@haroldhendu "Saving $5.5 Billion of a $1.42 Trillion deficit is 0.38%"

Put another way, it would be like a person making $100,000 saving $380 on a $10,000 expenditure. Not a huge savings.

Posted by: timmsc | November 3, 2010 11:23 PM | Report abuse

The Social Security Administration has been shrinking by attrition since the Reagan administration so let other federal agencies suffer also, especially the perpetually bloated Defense Department.

Posted by: pjmartone | November 4, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

I am all for fiscal austerity and tax cuts, but it can't be done piecemeal. There should be an across the board reduction in government spending including reduced social security benefits, reduced medicare reimbursement, reduced defense spending, reduced farm subsidies, reduced tax credits for business and individuals along with reduced discretionary spending for that 20% of the federal budget. Yes, congress will have change the laws on entitlements, but sorry, we should all share in the austerity. Okay Republicans, you won, you gave two years to Obama and the Dimocrats to fix things, now you get your two years. I give you the same two years to do something or I will go to the ballot box and vote against you next time.

Posted by: northdakota | November 4, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Regarding the person who said there would be no consequences if Congress decides to make Federal employees take two weeks off without pay. Actually you are dead wrong. My husband is one of the many involuntary unemployed people in this country. I am the federal worker providing income and benefits for our family, which includes 4 small children. Without my spouses salary, our mortgage is 50 percent of my income (i.e. 2 weeks of my pay). So my unpaid 2 weeks would cause me to fall permanently behind in on my mortgage payments. To catch up, I might become delinquent in my federal taxes and need to make a payment arrangement with the IRS. But wait, then I would be fired. So now you have 4 kids on government health care and food stamps, 2 adults on unemployment, a house in foreclosure, a bankruptcy, and lost income and property taxes, all of which will cost the government way more than my 2 weeks salary will save. How does that make sense? Maybe members of Congress can donate 6 months of their salary instead. Now that will have no impact on me. No doubt their mortgage lenders won't mind and they probably have accountants who minimize or eliminate their federal taxes anyway. As a caveat, my friends in the private sector are paid more per week than I am paid per month to do what I do. So the guy who wrote that skilled workers will switch to the private sector is absolutely correct. Federal benefits aren't what they used to be and certainly not enough to compensate for the substantial wage disparity.

Posted by: veritaz | November 4, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

I distinctly remember David Stockman saying, when FERS was implemented, that it is designed for portability and they didn't want the best and the brightest working for the Federal Government. Looks like the wish is rapidly coming true. There will be an exodus, not only of people eligible to retire, but of dynamic young personnel. And the fed government will accelerate in a downward spiral. Mission accomplished.

Posted by: OldFed1 | November 4, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

With state and local governments suffering, I could certainly see federal workers having to share in the sacrifice brought about by a dismal economy. It is silly, however, to cut federal employees if you are not going to be serious about the waste at defense and other security agencies. Cuts should be in all the government if you want to make a commitment to reduce the deficit. Otherwise, it is just more posturing.

Posted by: Natsfan2424 | November 4, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

timmsc, give me $380. Now. You won't miss it. I promise.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 4, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

veritaz, why is your inability to budget my problem? A formerly two income family with no savings and an unaffordable mortgage on a mcmansion is not exactly a sympathetic story.

You'll probably still get a pay raise next year equal to or larger than any time off. Your lack of judgment is disturbing and calls into question why you should continue to be employed anywhere.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 4, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I wouldnt leave federal service, and I'm not allowed to strike, but you can bet your ass I'd slow down.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | November 4, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

getjiggly1 wrote:

"A formerly two income family with no savings and an unaffordable mortgage on a mcmansion is not exactly a sympathetic story.

You make a lot of assumptions regarding the writer's salary, home, financial wherewithal, etc. The writer didn't state how long her husband had been laid off, nor that they had no savings, owned a McMansion, or anything of the sort. But you certainly leapt to that conclusion quickly enough.

Posted by: Skowronek | November 4, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

While I have no views on the Haskell whatever it is, I would take my fair share of austerity without complaint if:

--The rhetoric was ratcheted down. Many of us came into government service to help people. The rhetoric paints us in the aggregate as wasted money, but talk to us individually, then tell me that what I do doesn't matter.

--A moratorium on the word "bureaucrat."

--At least show an ounce of remorse. I'm an American too, and don't especially appreciate my fellow Americans relishing me taking a pay cut. Times are hard, but why have we turned on each other?

--Congress adopted a true spirit of austerity in their own operations.

--Don't delineate between DoD/DHS and the rest of us. This should be about saving money, period. Not about protecting certain policy priorities over others, and putting certain agencies at a hiring advantage over others. Cuts hurt. They shouldn't disproportionately hurt limited programs while sparing vast swaths of favored sectors.

Posted by: TheBoreaucrat | November 4, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

We have TRILLION dollar programs along with MULTI-BILLION dollar programs from the defense department to other which we could cut and save billions

Yet....we are picking on federal workers making ALREADY a lower-than-private-sector salary?

I mean, are these people just THAT stupid?

This is purely a right-wing idea that sounds cool to them yet has absolutely no effect whatsoever

Posted by: Bious | November 4, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

FIRE PEOPLE FOR NOT PAYING TAXES? well YAHOO! Lets start with the MANY members of CONGRESS, SENATORS, and CABINET that failed to pay THEIR Taxes! They should be on the chopping block first and foremost! How about firing those same politcals for their hiring illegal immigrants? Funny when it comes to their positions, they are never fired...but was always a mistake. But never a mistake for the govt worker. Guess money and power DOES buy you a FREE PASS!

Posted by: IGotLotsToSay | November 5, 2010 5:17 AM | Report abuse

It looks like more political "smoke and mirrors" to me. Politicians don't want to risk angering people by taking on entitlement reform so they make a big show of slapping around civil servants. It sets up the illusion that they are doing something to cut into the deficit and carries almost no political risk.

Posted by: Okiefrom | November 5, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Let me get this right - these are the same people that want to keep all those hefty tax cuts in place for the rich - otherwise known as the No-Millionaire/Billionaire-Left-Behind Program. So, they want to increase the unemployment rate, make the rich richer and otherwise not do a darn thing to improve the economy, except for the richest 2%. Does the federal government have waste? Sure, let's start with the list of names above. Let's further start with eliminating earmarks, set-asides, incumbents using federal funds to mail out campaign literature and conduct those nasty robo calls. Let's also cut all federal politicians salaries by 25%. After doing all this and eliminating tax cuts for the rich those above can talk about the hard working federal workforce and their salaries. Under President Eisenhower - a REPUBLICAN - the rich didn't get away with such low tax rates and the country did just fine. My great-great grandfather served in the Union Army under Lincoln and yes my ancestor was a REPUBLICAN, but that's when being a Republican meant something real, not this phoney baloney charade of cutting the federal workforce to make these politicians rich buddies richer. Both Eisenhower and my ancestor are rotating rapidly in their graves and never would have stood for anything that is going on today in the GOP who brings us such wonders as the Contract On America and the Pledge to the American Rich.

Posted by: TheOracleOfVenice | November 9, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

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