White House opposes, but will not veto, bill to extend pay freeze

The White House said Wednesday that it opposed a House bill that would prevent federal employees from receiving the half-percentage-point pay raise set to go into effect next month, but the administration stopped short of issuing a formal veto threat.

"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.

Federal pay was frozen in 2010 during the financial crisis, with the small raise set to kick in at the beginning of this year. But its implementation was delayed through March 27 as part of the "fiscal cliff" deal, with federal workers set to earn their raise with the expiration of the current continuing resolution.

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But Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) introduced a bill under consideration Wednesday by the House Rules Committee that would extend that freeze throughout the entire year. The committee considered amendments to the legislation Wednesday, and the full House is set to vote on the bill on Friday.

“American families are tightening their belts; Members of Congress and the federal government must do the same," DeSantis said in a statement.

Democrats have blasted the bill, arguing federal workers deserve an incremental increase after two years without a raise.

“Instead of working to stop the sequester, Republicans in the House would rather go after their favorite punching bag — middle-class federal workers — and then take a week off,” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “It’s shameful that a nurse working at a VA hospital and a custodian working in a federal building haven’t had a pay raise in two years because the House GOP thinks middle-class and working families should bear the entire burden of reducing our deficit.”

The debate over federal pay comes less than a week after the White House informed federal labor unions that Obama plans to call for a 1 percent increase in federal salaries in the coming fiscal year. That news was met with mixed response; although some union leaders applauded the president's move to increase pay, others argued the increases were "simply not enough."

"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.

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