DC Area Congressmen Object to Federal Pay Freeze

Congressional representatives from the DC area are understandably unhappy with the federal pay freeze proposal and want to delay any decision on the freeze until the next Congress convenes. The Congressmen argue that claims on federal pay are based on “politics” while, presumably, their claims are based on a higher standard.

Legislators from the Washington, DC area, all of whom obviously have large numbers of federal employees in their districts, are asking that the proposal to freeze federal pay be held up until the next Congress “where federal pay can be considered in the context of a more comprehensive approach to deficit reduction.”

The eight Congressman also contend that data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows federal employees make 24% less than their private sector counterparts. They contend that claims to the contrary are “politically motivated.”

In addition to Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Reps. James P. Moran, Gerald E. Connolly and Frank R. Wolf of Virginia, Chris Van Hollen, John P. Sarbanes and Donna F. Edwards of Maryland, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District signed the letter. All but Wolf are Democrats.

No doubt, politics are largely at play for all sides including, of course,  the position taken in the letter from the Congressmen. The latest salvo in the debate is part of the overall Federal Salary War (See this article with that title).

The Federal Salary Council recently concluded that federal employees are paid substantially less than those in the private sector but, as many readers know, the Bureau of Labor Statistics data does not necessarily support the new claims of the DC area congressmen. The Federal Salary Council consists of government and union officials and its claims have been challenged as well. Organizations as varied as USA Today and the Heritage Foundation have cited the BLS data (not the Federal Salary Council) and concluded federal employees make considerably more than their private sector counterparts.

The federal pay system is broken and is breaking up as some agencies escape from the clutches of the GS system, largely because of continuing disputes such as the current one. Some federal employees make considerably more money since they are no longer under the federal GS system. No doubt, some federal employees are underpaid and some are overpaid depending on their positions, their geographic location and where they happen to be working.

Perhaps one good thing that may emerge from the controversy is that the federal government will decide to undertake a process of engaging in a study that will make a more definitive, and less political, conclusion regarding the overall pay of federal employees. It may even lead to a new, more flexible pay system that will give the nation’s taxpayers and federal employees a fairer pay system.

But, for now, all sides are contending those with an opposite view are engaged in “politics” while, of course, those making the more current allegation are above such things.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47