The Senate has started to advance a spending bill that keeps the road clear for a 1 percent federal employee pay raise in January, while boosting available funds for the IRS and several other agencies above the levels favored by the House.
A summary of a bill that cleared a Senate Appropriations subcommittee Tuesday says the measure “does not contradict” the White House’s proposal for a raise of that size. An increase of that same amount was paid in January after a three-year freeze on basic salary rates.
Under federal pay law, if no specific raise figure — including zero — is enacted by the end of a calendar year, the White House’s recommendation, typically repeated in a directive issued in late summer, is paid by default.
The House bill approved by its counterpart subcommittee last week is silent regarding a raise amount, although it specifies that if a raise is paid, senior political appointees would not receive it. Congressional pay would remain frozen as well, under a separate spending bill already passed by the House.
The Senate’s financial services-general government spending measure further would provide $11.5 billion for the Internal
Revenue Service, a 2 percent increase above current levels, for the fiscal year that starts in October. That amount “will enable the IRS to meet a growing demand for services,” said subcommittee chairman Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.).
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), though, said that “considering the poor track record at the IRS in targeting of conservative groups and their general lack of transparency, I think we should be looking for ways to rein them in and not giving them more license to hunt.”
The subcommittee advanced the bill by consent, with Republicans going on the record as opposed, however. No members commented on the raise.
The counterpart House bill would allot just under $11 billion for the IRS — a level that the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents many IRS employees, said would further erode the agency’s ability to collect taxes and answer taxpayer questions.
The House bill further would bar the agency from spending any money to carry out responsibilities under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, including to carry out an individual insurance mandate.
The full House Appropriations Committee is set to consider that bill Wednesday, on the heels of contentious hearings regarding missing e-mails related to the agency’s handling of applications for tax exemptions by certain groups.
The Senate also would provide more than the House for several other agencies funded by the bill, including the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The House bill further would drop, but the Senate would keep, a long-running requirement that the U.S. Postal Service deliver mail six days a week. That provision has acted as a barrier to attempts by the Postal Service and some in Congress to switch to five-day mail delivery, while potentially continuing parcel delivery on six days.