Joe Davidson
Joe Davidson
Columnist

Groups rate Congress on worker issues

Want to know where your members of Congress stand on federal employee and retiree issues?

Federally Employed Women (FEW) and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) make it easy with their scorecards rating how members of Congress voted on bills important to the organizations.

Joe Davidson

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about the federal workplace that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.

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“The vast majority of scores were either 30% or 90% or 100% broken down by party and very similar to last year’s scores,” Janet Kopenhaver, FEW’s Washington representative, said in a statement released with its scorecard.

Kopenhaver didn’t say how each party ranked. She didn’t have to.

The legislators cited as “Federal Worker Champions” for ranking at the top of FEW’s list for at least four straight years are all Democrats.

They are: Reps. Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Elijah E. Cummings (Md.) and John Sarbanes (Md.), and have been on the list for six years; Reps. Jim McGovern (Mass.), William Lacy Clay (Mo.) and Allyson Y. Schwartz (Pa.) for five years; and Reps. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Gerald E. Connolly (Va.) for four years.

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (N.J.) had a top ranking for five consecutive years. Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and Robert Menendez (N.J.) were at the top for four straight years.

“The issues chosen were those of most importance and priority for FEW members,” Kopenhaver said. “Among the priorities were not supporting several anti-federal worker bills, and co-sponsoring the Equal Rights Amendment and the Paycheck Fairness bills.”

Near the bottom of both scorecards were two of the most important House members on federal worker topics, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Dennis A. Ross (R-Fla.), chairman of the federal workforce subcommittee.

They voted in favor of positions supported by the organizations 20 percent of the time during the 112th Congress. By contrast, the ranking Democrats on the committee and subcommittee, Cummings and Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), respectively, received a perfect ranking on the NARFE scorecard, which is in the September/October issue of the organization’s magazine. Cummings scored 100 percent and Lynch 90 percent on the FEW scorecard.

Media staffers for Issa and Ross did not respond to a request for comment on their low rankings.

NARFE’s scorecard covers five House votes and four in the Senate on issues such as federal pay, retirement and workers’ compensation.

“After two years of divided government, voters will determine if there should be a change,” says the introduction to the scorecard.

NARFE has an online tool that allows readers to determine how their representatives voted. The organization encourages readers to start at www.capwiz.com/ narfe/officials/ and insert a ZIP code to produce a display of the congressional delegation and key votes over the past 10 years

Input and output

Here are a couple of interesting items about federal employees that have been in the news lately.

One is a good-news story about workers in Great Falls, Mont., volunteering to make their community better. The other concerns how much money would be saved if every fed were fired.

We’ll get to the good news shortly.

But first, how much money would be saved if Uncle Sam fired every federal employee, including military personnel?

Not enough.

Not enough, that is, to solve the nation’s deficit problems.

The PBS Newshour’s Paul Solman recently broadcast this informative exchange with the Wall Street Journal’s David Wessel, author of “Red Ink,” a primer on the federal budget.

Wessel: Even if we fired every single federal employee, from the person who’s watering Michelle Obama’s tomatoes to the woman who’s sitting in some silo in North Dakota with her finger on the button to launch a missile if need be, if we got rid of all of them, we would have saved a lot of money, but it would have only made a small dent in the deficit.

The deficit was over a trillion dollars last year, and we would have saved $435 billion in wages and benefits if we fired every federal employee.

Solman: Including the military?

Wessel: Including the military. The point is that most of the money the federal government collects doesn’t go to pay bureaucrats. It goes right back out again in the form of benefits or state and local government grants or contracts. If we are going to restrain spending, someone is going to get less money from the federal government.

Good deeds

Now the good news about good deeds.

More than 80 employees participated in the Combined Federal Campaign annual Day of Caring in Great Falls, according to the Great Falls Tribune.

Federal employees — military and civilian — cleaned garages, raked leaves, trimmed trees and did light maintenance work for disabled and senior citizens, the Tribune reports. Agencies represented included the Air Force, the Forest Service, the Postal Service and the Montana Air National Guard.

“This is a good way to give a little back to the community,” Air Force Master Sgt. Jim Ulrich said.

Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson.

 
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