The familiar topics of government spending and performance are among the early pieces of business on Capitol Hill this week, with attention to long-running budgetary issues to follow.
With Congress back in Washington after more than a month-long recess, the House has scheduled votes for as soon as today on two government reform bills that cleared the committee level in June. Both are to be brought up under a short-cut process that requires only voice voting, although with a two-thirds majority.
One bill would require the government to better measure the customer service it provides to the public, develop standards for improving that service and regularly report on progress. Agencies would have to get feedback from their customers, designate an official responsible for carrying out service standards, and include compliance with those standards in the job ratings of their employees.
A counterpart bill is pending in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
The other bill would require agencies to report quarterly on any conference or meeting that costs $100,000 or more or that is attended by more than 50 employees. The measure is a reaction to the General Services Administration conferences and awards scandal, which the Senate Governmental Affairs panel will revisit in a hearing Wednesday.
In the wake of that scandal, the Office of Management and Budget earlier issued additional restrictions on conferences and other travel spending. Restrictive language also has been written into numerous bills, including spending bills for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
Because those spending bills have bogged down, the House later this week plans to take up a measure to prevent a partial government shutdown by continuing agency operations through March at levels set by last year’s debt ceiling law. President Obama recently endorsed continuing the freeze on federal salary rates during such an extension, while calling for a 0.5 percent across-the-board pay raise when it ends.
A decision on pay would be left until after the turn of the year. Several federal employee unions have called for a raise to be made retroactive to January, but the freeze also could be continued through all of next year, an idea the House has endorsed several times.
Also expected later this week is a report from the White House on the potential impact of across-the-board cutting called sequestration set to occur in January unless prevented, under terms of that same debt ceiling law. The administration missed a deadline last weekend for issuing that report, citing the complexity of determining how that cut of nearly $110 billion would be allocated among defense and non-defense programs.
The House meanwhile plans to take up a measure advocating replacing those cuts with other spending reductions.