Congressional Democrats Rally to Defend Besieged Federal Workers; Independent Senator Targets Pay, Retirement


As House Republicans issued a letter calling for massive reductions in federal pay, benefits, and workforce size last week, Congressional Democrats sent a letter of their own calling for “super committee” members to defend federal workers from the irresponsible cuts.

The first to speak up was Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In an October 12 letter to the super committee, Cummings called for the exclusion of any cuts directly impacting federal workers. Rather, the chairman called on lawmakers to save on government contracts by capping gross contractor executive compensation at $200,000, down from the current $700,000.

Echoing this sentiment was Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Senate federal workforce subcommittee, who called for a 15 percent reduction in contract spending in addition to a moratorium on proposals unfairly targeting the federal workforce for cuts in an October 14 letter. Arguing that federal workers have already done their fair share of sacrifice to address the nation’s fiscal woes, Akaka reminded super committee members that any attack on federal workers is an attack on their own constituents:

“Approximately 85 percent of Federal employees work outside of the Washington, DC area, and they are our neighbors and constituents. Like the rest of our constituents, they are struggling with the deepest recession since the Great Depression… [M]any have unemployed spouses and adult children, their home values and retirement savings have fallen dramatically, and like everyone else they face high health care, college, and other costs. Further cuts to Federal pay and benefits will not only hurt these individual families, but will hinder the larger economic recovery.”

Before the ink was dry on Sen. Akaka’s letter to the super committee, Independent Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Republican Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) sent a letter calling for cuts to both federal employees and contractors. According to their letter filed the same day, federal workers must sacrifice even more:

“As a strong supporter of our federal workforce, we say this with regret, because we are asking many dedicated, hard-working, and patriotic public servants to pay a price for fiscal and economic conditions for which they are not responsible. But people across the country are struggling, most especially those who are suffering from historic levels of unemployment, and all Americans, including those of us in the public sector, must help get our country out of the hole we are in.”

As part of their proposal, the Senators call for a one-year extension of the widely unpopular pay freeze, an increase of 1.2% in employee pension contributions, a shift to a high five pension contribution, and a 15% reduction in federal contractor expenses. Though this proposal is more modest than those advocated by House Republicans in a recent letter to the super committee, the changes put forward would cost workers thousands, if not tens of thousands, in lost income over a lifetime.

“I am shocked to see Senators Lieberman and Collins call for further cuts to be heaped on the backs of federal workers,” said NFFE Legislative Director Randy Erwin. “The pay freeze federal workers endured will cost the average federal employee $30,000 over the course of their careers. That is an enormous sacrifice that federal employees have already made to do their part in fixing our national budget problems. Making additional cuts to strip workers of their retirement security makes federal workers and their families scapegoats for poor decisions made by Congress. It is an outrage, and we won’t stand for it.”