Pay raise would be wide-reaching, but exclude members of Congress

October 21, 2013

The 1 percent raise that is the works for federal workers in January would not apply to members of Congress but it would go to top political appointees, meaning that many high-level career employees, whose pay is tied to that of the political appointees, also would benefit.

The budget measure that ended the partial government shutdown and temporarily raised the federal debt ceiling leaves room for a 1 percent raise, which would be the first after three years of frozen federal pay rates.

The measure does not specifically set a raise figure. Rather, it amounts to Congress taking a neutral position on the issue until the measure expires Jan. 15. President Obama already has indicated his intent to order a 1 percent boost if Congress does not take specific action on a raise by the end of the calendar year.

(Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)
(Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

The provision of pay law allowing a raise to be set by executive order last was applied in late 2006 when President George W. Bush set a 2.2 percent raise for 2007 by default.

One group on which the measure is not neutral is members of Congress themselves: It denies them a raise in 2014. That will be the fifth straight year, and sixth out of the last eight, in which congressional pay has been frozen.

Most members of Congress are paid $174,000; leaders are paid up to $223,500.

Congressional officials say that even though pay rates for Congress and for political appointees formally are linked, the continued freeze would apply only to House and Senate members. That would allow the raise to apply to political officials, although excluding Obama himself — the presidential salary, currently $400,000, cannot be changed during an incumbent’s term in office.

Salaries of career employees in several high-level pay systems are limited in turn to rates for certain levels of political appointees, meaning that those pay caps also would be raised. The largest such category is the Senior Executive Service, whose members are paid in a range currently limited to $179,700.

Pay at the upper reaches of the largest pay scale for rank and file employees, the General Schedule, also is capped by a political appointee pay level. That cap, of $155,500, also would rise.

During the freeze on pay rates, some federal employees have not received any pay bumps while some have had raises due to promotion, for performance, or on advancing up the steps of a pay grade up to that cap.

Budget deliberations in Congress are continuing, and a move still could be made to deny a January 2014 raise. However, congressional supporters of the raise and administration officials have said that they would work to keep the 1 percent raise in place in that event.

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Josh Hicks · October 21, 2013