The GOP-led House oversight committee  passed a bill this week that would curb bonuses for senior federal executives as part of a package of measures the panel approved affecting federal workers and agencies.

The legislation, which the panel passed Wednesday, would limit bonuses for senior federal executives to 5 percent of their base salaries, in addition to capping the number of top-level employees who can receive awards each year.

Republicans have criticized federal bonuses at a time when agencies are placing workers on unpaid furlough as part of the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester.

“The government’s decision to furlough hundreds of regular, often blue-collar federal workers while senior employees cash in is unacceptable,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who sponsored the bill.

Democrats have pushed back against the proposal. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the committee, described it as a “knee-jerk reaction from House Republicans … that is poorly conceived and will destroy the senior executive service.”

“The irony is that for a group of individuals who constantly cry out that the federal government must act more like a business, they would choose to spend precious floor time on partisan efforts to dismantle a Bush administration pay-for-performance system established in 2004,” Connolly added.

Corporations often justify executive bonuses by saying they need awards to attract the best talent. Similarly, the labor groups that represent federal workers have argued that bonuses are necessary at a time when agencies are trying to do more with less.

The National Treasury Employees Union, which opposes the Meadows bill, said in a statement Friday that the awards “serve the important purpose of recognizing performance above established standards, and in that way, encourage and reward high-performing federal employees.”

The committee approved three other measures Wednesday, passing legislation that would give citizens the right to record conversations with federal regulators, permit agencies to place employees on unpaid leave while they’re under investigation for alleged wrongdoing and direct the White House budget office to create government-wide standards for customer service.

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