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House plans that would freeze federal pay rates advance

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Federal pay rates would be frozen for the third straight year in 2013 under several plans that advanced in the House on Wednesday.

A spending bill covering general government matters for the coming fiscal year approved by a House Appropriations subcommittee contains no additional money to pay for a raise, effectively rejecting President Obama’s request for a 0.5 percent increase in January.

That spending bill, which also provides operating funds for financial regulatory agencies and central management agencies, typically is the vehicle for setting the annual federal pay raise, when one is provided. Under a law passed in late 2010, salary rates were frozen for 2011 and 2012, although employees still can get raises on promotion, as a performance reward, or as they advance up the steps of their pay grades.

The subcommittee-approved bill now goes to the full Appropriations Committee, where amendments commonly have been offered to increase federal pay rates.

Also on Wednesday, the House started voting on a spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security that provides no funds for a raise there. The House last week approved a bill that similarly contained no additional money for a raise for employees of the Veterans Affairs Department and military construction functions of the Department of Defense.

The White House has issued statements against both of those bills, calling a continued freeze “neither sustainable nor desirable” and urging support for its proposed 0.5 percent raise.

The House this year endorsed extending the freeze for three more years as part of a budget plan. However, the Senate has not taken up that bill, and such spending outlines do not have the force of law. The appropriations bills advancing in Congress allot the actual funds for the budget year that starts in October.

The full Senate has not voted on any of its spending bills, and its Appropriations Committee has not produced a counterpart to the general government bill. This year, the Senate rejected an amendment, offered to a highway bill, to continue the federal salary freeze in 2013.

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