US House draft spending bill proposes 3.1% federal pay rise

By on 09/06/2019 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Looking askance: House legislators aim to raise civil service pay, challenging Trump’s plans for a freeze (Image courtesy: Gage Skidmore).

The Trump administration’s plans for a 2020 federal pay freeze and the break-up of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) have been rejected in a draft funding bill released by the House on Sunday.

Members of the House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee proposed an average 3.1% pay rise for US federal civil servants next year. That would include a 2.6% across-the-board increase, with an extra 0.5% adjustment in locality pay.

The pay increase would match the 3.1% raise for military personnel proposed by the White House, ensuring parity in new money for civilian and military staff. If it were to go through, it would be the largest federal pay increase for a decade.

Every journey begins…

The draft bill passed smoothly without objections or amendments in subcommittee on Monday and will now move to the full House Appropriations Committee for approval. 

However, this is just an initial step on the long road to becoming law.

The Senate subcommittee is yet to release its version of the draft appropriations bill, but once it has done there will be negotiations to iron out any differences between the two versions before it’s sent to president Trump to be signed off. This initial move by the House looks set to reignite the long-running argument over federal pay, in which president Trump has been trying for two years to freeze wages for federal employees.

His 2019 order for a pay freeze was overturned at the beginning of this year, after months of wrangling failed to resolve the stand-off between the executive and legislature – leading to a long-standing partial government shutdown. Federal employees were eventually awarded a backdated raise of 1.9% in April 2019. 

Bid to block break-up

The House has also made clear that it does not support the Trump administration’s plans to break up the OPM, splitting its responsibilities between the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The draft bill would prohibit funding to “reorganise or transfer any function of authority” between departments, and instead proposes extra funding for the OPM.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) tweeted its support for the draft bill, saying: “The House Appropriations Committee’s draft spending bill would give federal workers a much-needed 3.1% pay increase and protect OPM from being dismantled.”

AFGE president, AJ. David Cox, said in a statement to Federal News Network: “This pay raise is a critical investment in our government’s most valuable resource — its workers.

“It also maintains the decades-long principle of providing equal pay adjustments to the government’s civilian employees and service members.”

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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