The Washington Post

Federal employee bills on plate of lame duck Congress

Congress returns to work this week with important pieces of federal employee related legislation on the plate of the lame duck session.

Eye Opener

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 U.S. Postal Service afloat for years. The Senate passed a bi-partisan bill in April.

When the Senate acted, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe 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,” said Issa. “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 one hundred 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. Among its many provisions, the 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.

The whistleblower bill 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 waspassed by the House in September.

Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.



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