GOP bill would reduce federal retiree benefits to spare Defense from sequester

December 4, 2013
Federal employees protest the sequester outside the Department of Labor on March 20. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg).
Federal employees protest the sequester outside the Department of Labor on March 20. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg).

Republican lawmakers on Tuesday proposed a bill that would require federal workers to pay more toward their retiree benefits in order to soften sequestration’s blow to the Defense Department over the next two years.

The legislation, introduced by Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) and Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), adopts several plans from President Obama’s 2014 budget blueprint.

The bill would require federal employees to contribute an additional 1.2 percent of their salaries toward retirement and eliminate the supplemental payments that go to certain federal workers who retire before they are eligible for Social Security benefits.

It would also change how the government calculates cost-of-living adjustments for federal-retiree and Social Security benefits, tying the amount to a less-generous inflation index known as the “chained CPI.”

All of those plans are part of Obama’s 2014 budget proposal.

The legislation would also place a two-year hold on the Defense Department’s spending caps required under the Budget Control Act, which forces across-the-board budget cuts for virtually all federal agencies unless Congress and the White House agree to alternative deficit-reduction measures.

Bridenstine said in a statement on Tuesday that his bill “strengthens defense, reforms entitlements, and reduces the national deficit by $200 billion.” He also accused Obama of “hollowing out our military, emboldening our enemies to be even more aggressive, and encouraging our friends to align with the East.”

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who heads the Senate Appropriations Committee, criticized the GOP proposal on Wednesday in a letter to the bipartisan conference committee trying to hammer out a budget deal that would avoid another government shutdown.

Mikulski encouraged the group to reject the “draconian proposals to require federal employees to pay substantially more for the retirement” and “reach a deal that acknowledges the value of federal employees.”

Federal employee unions also spoke out against the Republican bill on Wednesday. The National Treasury Employees Union said approving the legislation would be a “significant step backward for a nation whose population already faces a retirement savings crisis.”

“It is well-documented that Americans are not saving enough for retirement, and we should not be taking any steps to make that problem more difficult for working people,” said NTEU president Colleen M. Kelley.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks@washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestion.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks · December 4, 2013