Lawmakers receive low marks on key issues

Joe Davidson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 28, 2010; 7:41 PM

Although the Democratic control of Capitol Hill has been good for federal workers, the second session of the 111th Congress was a bummer compared with the first.

That's the bottom line of a congressional score card released by Federally Employed Women, also known as FEW.

"The scores are much lower than last year's, and we can only conclude that this reflects recent developments in Congress to indirectly punish federal workers for our nation's budget problems," said FEW President Sue Webster.

The score card rates House and Senate members on 10 issues important to FEW's membership and has broad areas of overlap with the agendas of other groups. The measures include paid parental leave and senior executive service diversity bills, which FEW supports, and legislation that would cut federal pay and freeze government hiring, which FEW opposes.

One sign of the way Congress is moving on federal employee subjects is FEW's opposition to significantly more measures this year than at any point since it began keeping score in 2005.

That trend probably will gain speed if Republicans take over the House or Senate. The organization, however, expects to play more defense than offense when the next Congress convenes in January, no matter which party is in control.

Although Republicans have been on the forefront of proposals to freeze or cut federal pay and the federal workforce, the score card indicates that Democrats also are now less likely to be on the federal worker bandwagon.

"Next year we know our strategy is going to be more defensive than proactive," said Janet Kopenhaver, FEW's Washington representative. "That's a change for us. . . . We've seen the writing on the wall."

The change from the first session to the second is demonstrated by the scores that FEW gave lawmakers.

There were 52 representatives who earned a perfect score of 100 percent from FEW last time. This year's score card has none. Nine senators scored at least 90 percent in 2009. Only Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) did this year.

"This reflects the recent development of some legislators believing that fixing our budgetary problems rests on the backs of federal workers," Kopenhaver said.

She suggested that Democrats who supported FEW's positions in the first session might have been less likely to do so in the second because of media reports about federal pay, or that they might be in tight races, or the generally poor economic situation.

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