Second Shoe Drops: Senators Propose Massive Federal Job Cuts, Salary Freezes, as Part of Debt-Ceiling Package
When Congress and the Administration came to an agreement to raise the federal debt limit earlier this month, both parties agreed to formulate a bipartisan committee to find $1.5 trillion in additional savings by year’s end.
The idea was to bring both parties together to hammer out a responsible, bipartisan compromise that everyone could rally around. This so-called ‘super committee’ would be made up of three Democrats and three Republicans from each house of Congress, consisting of 12 members in total. With the long, bruising debt-ceiling fight behind them, the time for serious business was about to get under way. At least, that is what was supposed to happen.
Merely two days after the agreement was reached – before a single super committee member had been appointed – Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) were already trying to dictate the terms of the debate. Tuesday, they introduced S. 1476, the Federal Workforce Reduction and Reform Act of 2011, a bill that would freeze federal pay and bonuses for an additional three years, slash the federal workforce by 300,000 jobs over ten, and cut the federal travel budget by 75%.
Of course, these cuts are nothing new, as Congressional Republicans have pushed similar measures time and time again over the past several years. But this time, things could be different. According to an article in The Hill newspaper Wednesday, Hatch said that he and other Republicans Senators would put forth this proposal as a down payment on the $1.5 trillion savings goal. If they follow through on their threat and put these policies on the negotiations table, they represent far more than the idle threats they have posed in the past.
“We cannot and must not allow federal employees to become a bargaining chip on the Congressional negotiating table,” said NFFE National President William R. Dougan. “Federal employees have already sacrificed with a two year pay freeze; agency budgets across government have been slashed, costing jobs; workers have twice been brought to the brink of furloughs due to funding crises. Federal employees have already made immense sacrifices to get our nation’s fiscal house in order. We will stand in staunch opposition to any effort to balance the budget on the backs of our nation’s border patrol agents, Defense civilians, VA nurses and doctors, and all federal workers who serve their country every day.”
While Congress spends the month of August vacationing and raising money in their home districts, NFFE and other unions will be working to cut this plan off at the knees before any damage is done.
“This problem isn’t going away,” said Randy Erwin, NFFE Legislative Director. “We are going to be in struggle after struggle to defend the modest pay and benefits that federal workers earn. Those in Congress who are targeting federal workers for cuts will never be satisfied by the cuts they are able to make; they will keep coming back again and again until there is nothing left to take, and the agencies we work for can no longer function. That is why we must draw a line in the sand and stop the Coburn/Hatch bill.”