Federal civilian employees have worked under a pay freeze for about two years, but their incomes will begin to rise after March 27 unless Congress acts before then to once again halt their normally automatic salary increases. 

Lawmakers are expected to take up the matter again in coming months as they address the debt limit and the automatic spending cuts that will be delayed under a fiscal-cliff deal President Obama signed Wednesday. 

Obama, who imposed the pay freeze in 2010 as a way to curtail federal spending, issued an executive order last month that would lift the hold and implement a 0.5 percent across-the-board increase for lawmakers and federal employees starting after the last short-term spending plan expires on March 27.

Congress could override the executive order with new legislation that extends the freeze, but Obama would have to sign the measure.  

The fiscal-cliff deal included language holding congressional salaries at current rates through 2013, meaning part of the president’s order — the part increasing lawmaker pay — will not take effect.

The GOP-controlled House approved a bill on Tuesday to extend the pay freeze for federal workers and members of Congress through 2013. But the Democrat-led Senate didn’t vote on the legislation, meaning it died — a new Congress is scheduled to convene Thursday.

Federal labor leaders this week criticized the GOP-sponsored bill.  

“Reducing the salaries of federal workers through an extended pay freeze is a cheap political ploy,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “Not only does it inflict tremendous damage on the families of these modestly paid workers, more than half of whom are veterans, but it also hits the communities where these employees live, since they will continue to be unable to afford any kind of economic activity beyond paying for the bare necessities of living.”

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