There are proposals that would take more from the federal workers, for example by basing their retirement calculation on the highest five years of an employee’s salary instead of the highest three. We will deal with those proposals in greater depth in future columns.
Among the measures awaiting action is one affecting federal whistleblowers and a U.S. Postal Service bill that has a government-wide workers’ compensation provision.
Congress has been trying to figure out how to keep the Postal Service afloat for years. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill in April.
When the Senate acted, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) said “this legislation will change the USPS so it can stay alive throughout the 21st century to serve the people and businesses of this country.”
But the key sponsor of House legislation, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has called the Senate bill “wholly unacceptable,” because he said the bill does not permit postal officials to quickly close facilities in order to save money.
“Instead of finding savings to help the Postal Service survive, the Senate postal bill has devolved into a special interest spending binge that would actually make things worse,” Issa said. “While the Postal Service is actually trying to shutter some facilities it does not need, the Senate bill forces the Postal Service to keep over 100 excess postal facilities open at a cost of $900 million per year.”
Postal employee unions were ambivalent about the Senate’s legislation, which would affect other federal workers as well, and like Issa’s bill even less. Among other things, the Senate bill would cut some workers’ compensation payments three years after enactment. Not only postal workers, but other federal employees would be covered. Compensation would not be reduced, however, for those who are totally and permanently disabled or already above retirement age.
Another bill that the 112th Congress could act on during its final days is the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.
It would strengthen protection against retaliation from supervisors toward federal employees who report waste, fraud or abuse. This bill has been more than a decade in the making. It was passed by the House in September.
Under the legislation, whistleblower protections would be extended to Transportation Security Administration employees, agency inspectors general would appoint ombudsmen to inform employees about their whistleblower rights and the Office of Special Council could file briefs in support of workers who appeal rulings in certain whistleblower cases.