Another look at what Simpson-Bowles would mean for federal workers

February 5, 2013

The House could vote as soon as today on a proposal urging the Obama administration to turn to the Simpson-Bowles commission’s

recommendations if the White House’s upcoming budget proposal doesn’t balance the government’s books within 10 years.

The House has scheduled voting on the Require a Plan Act, which would require the White House to submit a supplemental proposal by April 1 for bringing the budget into balance, if the main budget shows a deficit for that entire period.

In preparing the bill for voting, the House Rules Committee on Monday allowed a vote on an amendment stating that the commission’s recommendations “enjoy wide bipartisan support and should be considered the basis for meeting” that requirement.

“Our amendment simply adds a finding supporting the president’s use of the Simpson-Bowles framework as the basis for his budget submission to Congress,” said a spokeswoman for one of the sponsors, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.).

Wolf on Monday also sent letters to President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), urging them to adopt the Simpson-Bowles proposals as a means to avoid automatic sequestration cuts set to hit many federal programs starting in March.

Among its proposals affecting federal employees, the commission recommended a three-year freeze on salary rates. That has been largely adopted, since no general federal pay raise was paid in 2011 or 2012 or last month; a 0.5 percent raise will take effect in April unless prevented.

The commission further recommended reducing the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition, basing the employer contribution toward employee health insurance on a fixed dollar amount rather than a percentage of the total premiums, and equalizing the employee and government contributions toward federal retirement, which would require employees to pay about 6 percent more of their salaries for that benefit.

The Rules Committee meanwhile rejected another proposed amendment, by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), seeking to turn off the sequester with a package of spending cuts and revenue increases.

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Josh Hicks · February 5, 2013