By Erik Wasson - 12/04/13 10:21 AM EST
Mikulski opposes budget deal cutting federal pensions
The chairwoman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee revealed how torn she is about a budget deal that could cut federal pensions.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) desperately wants a deal that turns off $91 billion in sequester cuts to the discretionary accounts under her committee's purview.
But the chairwoman happens to represent Maryland, home to at least 300,000 federal workers, and a sequester replacement deal on the table could force them to pay more for retirement.
Mikulski wrote to the top budget negotiators on Wednesday urging them to look elsewhere.
"As you continue working toward a budget agreement, I’m writing to urge you to reach a deal that acknowledges the value of federal employees by avoiding sequester for at least two years and rejecting draconian proposals to require federal employees to pay substantially more for their retirement," she wrote to Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
Mikulski notes that federal workers have had their pay frozen for three years and that many have already been furloughed for days because Congress left the sequester in place in 2013.
She said that a 5.5 percent increase in Federal Employee Retirement System contributions, as laid out in Ryan's budget, would be "unacceptable."
The letter does not specifically cite President Obama's own proposal for a 1.2 percent increase, though. That proposal could replace $20 billion in sequester cuts.
"Without a deal to avoid sequester for at least two years, budgets for agency payrolls will be slashed and federal employees will again face the uncertainty of furloughs and pay cuts. And requiring federal employees to pay substantially more for their retirement would again make them the scapegoats of deficit reduction," she said.
Mikulski and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) had urged the budget conference to get a deal by Dec. 2 in order to allow time to pass a omnibus appropriations bill by the time government funding runs out Jan. 15. Talks continue, but a deal may not come until just before the House leaves for Christmas break, on Dec. 13. That would likely force a stopgap continuing resolution while an omnibus is crafted.