The Washington Post

House approves budget that would save money by taking from federal workers

Columnist

It was a lovely day at the Capitol Building — at least outside.

The cherry blossoms and tulip trees were aglow, groups of children in matching shirts scampered about and members of Congress posed with eager constituents on the Capitol steps.

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. View Archive

Inside in the House chamber, the mood was fairly friendly, too. Discussion between Republicans and Democrats on a budget measure was pointed but not angry, as those debates sometimes can be.

By lunchtime the votes were cast, and suddenly Thursday became gloomy for federal employees. The House approved a Republican spending plan, sponsored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.), which would effectively cut the pay of federal workers and end their student loan reimbursement program, among other elements.

Senate approval of the GOP budget is not likely.

“If enacted, the budget’s policies would further erode employee morale and hinder recruitment and retention,” said Joseph A. Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. “Chairman Ryan’s budget sends a clear message — federal employees, and the work they perform, aren’t valued. Is this the message we should be sending to those who take criminals off our streets and keep them behind bars, assist our military at home and abroad, care for veterans, and help us prepare for and recover from severe weather?”

Ryan, of course, doesn’t see it that way.

When his committee approved his plan, he said “it will grow the economy and create jobs. It will strengthen key priorities like national security and Medicare. It will restore fairness by rooting out cronyism. And it will stop spending money we don’t have.”

But it would spend money federal employees now have.

Ryan’s plan would make the majority of federal employees pay 5.5 percentage points more toward their retirement program with no increase in benefits. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, called this “a straight-out 5 percent pay cut.”

Ryan’s budget resolution for fiscal year 2015 is called “The Path to Prosperity,” but it would leave federal workers less prosperous. It says increasing their pension contributions would “help facilitate a transition to a defined-contribution system for new federal employees that would give them more control over their own retirement security. This option would save an estimated $125 billion over ten years.” That amount apparently includes “reform” of a supplemental federal retirement program.

Reform is likely to mean termination of the Federal Employees Retirement System Social Security supplement available to those who retire before age 62. The plan doesn’t specify what reform means, but Republicans previously have pushed to end the supplement.

Saving the government $125 billion in this case means taking it from federal employees through higher out-of-pocket retirement costs.

Instead of a path to prosperity, the Ryan budget is a “path to ruin,” the House Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), told her colleagues

Federal employee organizations agree.

The bid to increase retirement payments alone would nearly double the amount employees already have contributed, over 10 years, toward improving Uncle Sam’s finances, according to an analysis of Ryan’s plan by Budget Committee Democrats.

“After successive pay-freezes, pay reductions and benefit cuts amounting to almost $140 billion, no one group has been asked to contribute more to deficit reduction than federal employees,” the analysis says.

Ryan’s plan also would cut the federal workforce by hiring one new employee for every three who leave.

“They come after federal employees with a vengeance in this budget,” Van Hollen said in an interview. “This House Republican budget takes a meat axe to federal employees.”

During the budget debate, Van Hollen praised Ryan for the way the chairman conducted the budget process. But, Van Hollen continued, to chuckles from Ryan, the “process did not lead to a better product,” adding that it is the “worst budget in years.”

Ryan responded by saying the budget demonstrates that Republicans “trust the American people. . . . We trust the people to make an honest assessment. We trust them to make the right choice for their future.”

Meanwhile, it would further cut the ability of federal employees to make choices for their futures.

Said National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley: “Federal employees have already sacrificed enough.”

Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
The Democrats debated Thursday night. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Chris Cillizza on the Democratic debate...
On Clinton: She poked a series of holes in Sanders's health-care proposal and broadly cast him as someone who talks a big game but simply can't hope to achieve his goals.

On Sanders: If the challenge was to show that he could be a candidate for people other than those who already love him, he didn't make much progress toward that goal. But he did come across as more well-versed on foreign policy than in debates past.
The PBS debate in 3 minutes
Quoted
We are in vigorous agreement here.
Hillary Clinton, during the PBS Democratic debate, a night in which she and Sanders shared many of the same positions on issues
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the polls as he faces rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz heading into the S.C. GOP primary on Feb. 20.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
Fact Checker
Trump’s claim that his border wall would cost $8 billion
The billionaire's claim is highly dubious. Based on the costs of the Israeli security barrier (which is mostly fence) and the cost of the relatively simple fence already along the U.S.-Mexico border, an $8 billion price tag is simply not credible.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read

politics

federal_government

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.