Opposition is growing to President Trump’s plan to pick the pockets of federal employees and to his pick for the government’s personnel chief.
A letter from 18 Senate Democrats says his budget proposal to cut federal employee retirement benefits would “significantly harm” staffers and hurt government recruitment.
“We urge you to oppose any proposal that affects the ability of our federal employees to maintain their financial plans for retirement as well as their standard of living following their service to the government,” said the letter to Sens. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), the chamber’s top Republican and Democrat, respectively.
The letter was organized by Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.) and includes signatures from Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.), Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Bernard Sanders (Vt.) among others.
They join 100 House Democrats and 10 Republicans who previously wrote separate letters opposing Trump’s cuts, which include:
- Decreasing retirement benefits by basing them on the average of the high five years of salary instead of the current high three.
- Ending cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for current and future Federal Employees Retirement System employees (FERS).
- Shrinking the COLA for Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) employees by a half percent from what the formula otherwise allowed.
- Stopping the supplemental retirement income for FERS employees who retire beginning in 2018.
- Raising employee out-of-pocket FERS payments by 1 percentage point each year until they equal the government’s contribution. This would require up to six years and would result in increased payments from individuals of about 6 percent. Payments from federal law enforcement officers would similarly rise, but would not equal the greater contributions from law enforcement agencies.
The Senate Democrats placed the value of these cuts at $149 billion. A spending plan approved by the House Budget Committee would cost employees $163.5 billion over 10 years in the form of “greater contributions to their own defined benefit retirement plans.”
The Senate Democrats reminded McConnell and Schumer that federal staffers have already sacrificed billions in the name of deficit reduction.
“Since 2010, federal workers have been singled out to shoulder more than their fair share of the burden in budget negotiations,” the letter said. “As the cost of living has risen and outpaced federal salary increases, our federal workers have contributed billions to deficit reduction through several years of pay freezes and increased employee retirement contributions with no additional benefits in return. On top of that, in 2013, over 750,000 federal employees were furloughed due to sequestration, costing over $1 billion in lost wages in that year alone.”
Unions slam Trump’s pick for personnel chief
Meanwhile, a broad coalition of labor organizations launched strong opposition Wednesday to Trump’s choice to lead the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
In a letter to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which is considering the nomination of George Nesterczuk as Office of Personnel Management director, 16 unions said he has a failing record in fostering a federal workplace “free of discrimination, nepotism and political influence.”
A main point in their opposition to Nesterczuk, a former Republican OPM official, was his role in developing the Defense Department’s National Security Personnel System (NSPS), which was repealed in 2009 under the weight of harsh criticism from federal unions and congressional Democrats.
“Mr. Nesterczuk was one of the principal architects of NSPS, which turned out to be a discriminatory personnel system created out of extreme ideological disdain for the due process worker protections and merit system principals that define our modern day civil service,” the letter said. It was organized by the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and was signed by most of the major unions with federal employee members, including the AFL-CIO, an umbrella labor organization.
Union leaders are concerned that if he is confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, Nesterczuk “will again attempt to do a great deal of damage to members of the federal workforce and their due process rights” and continue “his battle to put in place NSPS-like personnel systems throughout the federal government that would lead to even more lawsuits, waste billions more in taxpayer dollars, and result in rampant discrimination in federal workplaces across the nation.”
Reached by phone, Nesterczuk said he did not want to get into the unions’ specific allegations, but he called them “fiction … made up stuff.”
Holman Rule hit on Congressional Budget Office fails
In other news, supporters of federal employees and honest government scored a victory Wednesday when a proposal to emasculate the Congressional Budget Office was shot down with a 309-116 bipartisan vote.
Using an obscure measure known as the Holman Rule, the provision offered by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) would have abolished the office’s budget analysis division, ditching its 89 employees. This was clear retaliation against a nonpartisan agency whose research predicts tens of millions of Americans would not have health insurance under various Republican health-care proposals.
“This is exactly what we worried about when Republicans reinstated this arcane rule in January,” said a statement from eight Democratic House members from Virginia, Maryland and the District, led by Rep. Don Beyer (Va.). “The Holman Rule empowers members of Congress to target individual federal employees. The rule is being used to punish an important advisory body for doing its job by providing forecasts which some members now find inconvenient.”
The attempt failed this time, but this might not be the last time the Holman Rule appears.