House Nears Vote on Extending Pay Freeze

The House is scheduled to vote today on a bill which would eliminate the 0.5% pay increase for federal employees. How likely is it to pass?

A vote is scheduled in the House this week on H.R. 273, a bill which would eliminate the 0.5% pay increase for federal employees set to take effect in the spring.

The legislation was introduced by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) on the grounds that federal spending is out of control and this is one way to curtail some of that spending.

“American families are tightening their belts; Members of Congress and the federal government must do the same. Especially when Congress hasn’t been able to get spending under control or pass a budget in over 1350 days,” said DeSantis. “My first piece of legislation tackles Congress and our bloated federal government head-on by freezing pay.”

Federal employee unions and support groups have been ramping up their opposition this week ahead of the scheduled vote to try to prevent it from advancing past the House. The Federal-Postal Coalition sent a letter to House members this week asking for a vote against the bill.

NTEU president Colleen M. Kelley is the latest to speak out against the proposal in a press release issued Tuesday.

Kelley said, “America’s workforce lives with constant threats of government shutdowns and furloughs and for agencies with fewer and fewer resources as a result of budget cuts. Nonetheless, they continue to provide the vital services your constituents depend on. It is past time to allow them the tiny pay increase this bill seeks to eliminate. Despite what supporters of this proposal may say about respecting the work of federal employees, blocking a modest pay raise of 0.5 percent for dedicated public servants who are working under a 27-month pay freeze sends quite the opposite message—that neither they nor their work are viewed as important to our nation.”

Other Congressmen agree with DeSantis, however. “It’s not how hard they [federal employees] work, it’s what can the American people afford,” said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA). He also added, “Currently, federal workers receive typically over $100,000, and are about 16 percent higher compensated than their private-sector counterparts.”

A number of House members agree with Issa and DeSantis as the bill has 38 co-sponsors.

But could the bill ever become law? President Obama issued an executive order last December formally announcing an end to the pay freeze, and his 2013 budget proposal recommended the 0.5% pay increase for the federal workforce.

The White House budget stated at the time, “A permanent pay freeze is neither sustainable nor desirable. However, in light of the fiscal constraints we are under, the Administration is proposing a 0.5 percent increase in civilian pay for 2013. Compared to the baseline, this slight increase in civilian pay would free up $2 billion in 2013 and $28 billion over 10 years to fund programs and services and is one of the measures the Administration proposes to help meet the discretionary caps.”

The House has already voted once this year to extend the pay freeze so there’s a good chance this bill will also pass in the upcoming vote, however, considering the president’s stated position on the issue, it seems unlikely that he would ever sign such a bill into law.

Stay tuned to for updates as they become available.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.