No sooner had Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and 28 co-sponsors introduced H.R. 273 on Wednesday than Cantor (R-Va.) announced a vote for next week. The measure would extend the freeze on basic pay rates until the end of the year.
“At a time when we should be focused on helping families get on solid financial footing, members of Congress, the vice president, Cabinet secretaries and federal employees don’t need a raise,” Cantor said. “This across-the-board pay hike issued by President Obama through executive order will cost hardworking taxpayers $11 billion. . . . We simply can’t afford it.”
In December, Obama said federal employees would get a 0.5 percent pay raise after a temporary funding measure expires in March. But that order can be trumped by congressional action.
“We simply cannot afford this unnecessary and unilateral action by the President,” DeSantis said. The congressman also plans to co-sponsor “No Budget, No Pay” legislation, which his office said would prevent lawmakers from being paid if they don’t pass a budget.
“Just like American families, the federal government needs to tighten its belt,” his news release added.
With this as his first bill, DeSantis, a freshman, makes a name at the expense of federal workers. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, appointed DeSantis to a seat on the federal workforce subcommittee.
“My actions this week are just the first steps in bringing accountability, reduced spending and conservative change to Washington,” DeSantis said.
Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, called his action “a continuation of the anti-federal-worker line of attack that became an all-too-familiar staple of the 112th Congress, particularly in the House. More than two dozen bills were introduced during that two-year period aimed at federal pay, benefits and rights.”
Fortunately for federal workers, the Senate is unlikely to approve the DeSantis bill, at least as standalone legislation. Yet if a measure extending the freeze, which began two years ago this month, were part of a deficit-reduction package that was otherwise acceptable to Democrats, it might be hard for them to reject it. But Democrats don’t like the idea.
“The hardworking men and women who make up the federal workforce have made a substantial sacrifice over the past two years to help bring down the deficit,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “Efforts by House Republicans to constantly use federal employees as a piggy bank — especially when the vast majority of their caucus refuses to ask millionaires to contribute more to reducing our deficit — are unconscionable. We cannot keep asking them to contribute more than their fair share as we work to put our fiscal house in order.”