By Justin Sink
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that federal workers were unlikely to see an increase in federal pay in 2013, despite President Obama's order that would have granted employees a half percentage point pay raise at the end of March.
Hoyer told reporters chances were "probably pretty good" that federal pay would remain frozen after House Republicans included an extension of the federal pay freeze in continuing resolution up for a vote Wednesday. That bill would fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Hoyer — who hails from a suburban Maryland congressional district heavy with federal employees — also said that even if the pay raise were approved, the increase was not large enough to keep up with the increasing cost of living.
"We only have six months left to go, so in effect they're getting a quarter percent raise — not raise, cost of living adjustment," Hoyer said. "Obviously the cost of living is substantially above that, which means they are getting a net decrease."
House Republicans voted last month to approve a stand-alone bill that would have frozen pay for the remainder of the fiscal year, although that vote was largely ceremonial as the bill is thought to have little chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But the White House's statement objecting to the legislation did not include a veto threat — a sign that President Obama does not consider a federal wage increase a crucial part of a deal to keep the government funded.
Still, Obama has pushed for an increase in federal wages. In addition to the half-point increase set for this fiscal year, the president has also proposed a one percent increase for the 2014 fiscal year.
"This modest pay increase will help ensure that the government remains competitive in attracting and retaining the nation's best and brightest individuals for public service," the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.
But the president's proposal has earned him criticism from both sides of the aisle. Federal workers unions have complained that the president has not done enough to help workers who have seen stagnant wages since 2011.
"It is not enough to allow federal employees to make up lost ground from two-plus years of frozen pay. It is not enough to allow workers, most of whom earn very modest salaries ranging from $24,000 to $70,000, to maintain living standards. And it is not enough to send a message with any kind of clarity that the administration values the federal workforce and doesn't believe it should continue to bear an enormously disproportionate share of deficit reduction," David Cox Sr., the president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), said in a statement.
Republicans, meanwhile, have said that federal workers should continue to contribute to reducing government expenses.
In a statement in January, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) characterized Obama's push for a pay increase as "not necessary to retain talented employees and just wastes taxpayer money.”
“Federal employees have continued to receive promotions and within-grade pay increases over the past few years of the supposed ‘pay freeze,’ and voluntary separations from the federal government are near all-time lows,” he said.