Many CSRS and CSRS Offset employees and retirees get heartburn over the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). (See The Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination and Your Retirement Future.) They hold out hope that Congress will repeal these onerous provisions, and a casual look at the number of co-sponsors that the bills to repeal the WEP and GPO attract might lead one to believe that there is a chance of repeal.
This just in: don’t hold your breath.
The current House bill to repeal the WEP and GPO (HR 82) has attracted 338 co-sponsors (out of 435 Representatives). If every co-sponsor voted for the bill, it would sail through the House with a veto-proof majority. Then why doesn’t it even get to the floor of the House? As most civil service legislation originates in the House, we won’t look at the companion bill in the Senate.
One reason the bill doesn’t get to the House floor is that it would have to clear the House Ways and Means Committee. The committee tends to be slightly more fiscally conservative than the rest of the House. Having said that, a majority of the committee (23 out of 40) are co-sponsors of HR 82. If the members of the Ways and Means committee voted based on their co-sponsorship or lack thereof, the bill would make it to the floor of the House for a vote. That means there must be another explanation for the singular lack of traction that WEP and GPO repeal has had over the last twenty years.
That reason is that it is far easier to sign-up as a co-sponsor of a piece of legislation than it is to actually vote for it. This is similar to the old joke about bacon and eggs, where the punch line has the pig saying to the chicken, "for you it’s just a contribution, for me it’s a commitment." View co-sponsoring a bill as the eggs and actually voting for the legislation as the bacon.
In an article in the February 2008 issue of Retirement Life, Christopher Farrell, a legislative representative for NARFE, makes the following statement. "Cosponsorship is reversible." A cosponsor can ask to be removed from the cosponsors of the bill. In sharp contrast, floor votes are final. In fact, cosponsorship can be quite disingenuous. Members can and do vote against bills they have cosponsored."
For those readers who are unfamiliar with NARFE, it is the National Association of Active and Retired Federal Employees and is a strong voice in the federal benefits area. You can go to their website and find how your Representative stands on WEP and GPO repeal. Click on "legislative action center", then on "issues and legislation", then on "current legislation" and lastly on HR 82. You will be able to check your state’s Representatives co-sponsorship.
Should you be so moved, you can contact your Representative and ask them either to co-sponsor the bill, or to do something to get it out of the Ways and Means committee.
The numbers used in this article were taken from the NARFE Legislative Action Center on January 28, 2008.