Republicans look to require federal workers to pay more for retirement

House Republicans this week will work to advance legislation that would require all federal workers to chip in more money for their retirement.

The bill is the latest GOP attempt to control federal spending, and is in part a response to the last few years, when federal retirement programs had to receive billions of additional taxpayer funds in order to meet a shortfall.

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"Like other Americans, our nation's civil servants, by and large, work hard, do a good job and provide for their families," Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wrote in report language accompanying the bill. "But it is unfair to ask taxpayers to keep footing the bill for unsustainable public-sector pensions when those benefits far exceed what the private sector offers."

Many House Democrats are expected to oppose the bill. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the oversight committee, said the bill is a GOP attack on federal workers, and said Congress needs to balance any proposed cuts to the government with higher taxes.

"While the majority would have federal workers contribute more than $100 billion toward reducing the nation’s deficit, they have refused to ask the wealthiest Americans to sacrifice even a penny toward this goal," he said.

But Republicans note that in 2010 and 2011, taxpayers had to pay an additional $64.5 billion into federal worker retirement programs to keep up the level of benefits these workers are owed under current law.

To help keep those programs current, H.R. 3813, the Securing Annuities for Federal Employees Act, would require current federal workers to increase their contribution by 1.5 percent more of their salary over three years. That's a more aggressive requirement than the 1.2 percent increase in worker retirement contributions that the Obama administration called for in its 2013 budget, a request that drew heavy opposition from unions.

But the bill would go further by ending a supplemental payment to workers who voluntarily retire before age 62. Also under the bill, new hires to the federal workforce would see their retirement contribution increase by an additional 3.2 percent of salary.

These changes essentially put in place a recommendation made by the Simpson-Bowles Commission on deficit reduction. The changes were initially included in H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, which the House will also begin working on this week.

However, Republicans decided to split the retirement portion off as a separate bill, in order to make it easier to consider the two portions. Also being split off is H.R. 3408, a bill aimed at facilitating the production of oil shale.

One GOP staffer said that once the three bills are approved separately, they will be combined together again as one measure before being sent to the Senate.

The House Rules Committee on Tuesday announced that it would approve a rule later in the day covering the three bills (the language of H.R. 3813 will be the same as language in Title XVI of H.R. 7).

— This story was updated at 1:33 p.m.

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