Five major bills--covering U.S. workers and their families from the cradle to the grave -- are caught in the Senate-House rush to adjourn by Friday.
The main item of business before Congress is to approve a continuing resolution. It would permit agencies whose budgets have not been approved to operate during the fiscal year that began yesterday. Agencies avoided having to furlough employes yesterday only because Congress over the weekend extended the budget deadline until the close of business today.
Meanwhile, Senate, House and White House representatives have been meeting to see if they can reach a compromise on the five civil service-related bills, and if so, how to dispose of them this week.
The least controversial legislation is a House-passed bill that would allow the divorced spouses of federal retirees to qualify for survivor annuity benefits and coverage under the federal employe health insurance plan. The Senate leadership is prepared to take the bill up anytime.
Also awaiting Senate approval are two other House-passed bills, covering whistle-blowers and relating to day-care benefits. The bills, a package deal, would extend for another three years the system of giving cash awards to feds who spotlight waste, fraud and corruption. It also provides for a government study of the feasibility of setting up day-care centers, or providing child-care benefits to U.S. employes.
Two other bills, relating to federal supervisors and to pay equity for women employes, are still the subject of much debate and horse-trading between the Senate and House.
Both the Senate and House have approved legislation (backed by the White House) to increase performance-based financial rewards for outstanding government supervisors and managers. It would benefit the 50,000 Grade 13-through-15 managers and supervisors in Washington who are under the merit pay system.
More controversial is a proposed pay equity study that the House linked to the merit pay bill it passed. The pay equity proposal would require the government to study its personnel system to see if women -- who hold the majority of the lowest-paying white-collar jobs -- have been the victims of discrimination. The administration opposes the pay equity study and opposition to it has stalled Senate approval.
Insiders say there is still a chance that all the bills could clear Congress this session, but that the odds decrease as each day passes.