The House of Representatives entertains several budgets with differing points of view in its formation of a budget resolution. By design, the budget resolution is the first step in the overall congressional budget cycle, and is to provide a comprehensive plan to Congress for addressing the government’s fiscal challenges. A budget resolution serves to outline policy goals and overall spending targets for the subsequent consideration of specific appropriations and authorization measures for agencies and programs.
Yesterday, the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of House conservatives with over 150 members, submitted its annual views. Stating that the federal bureaucracy has become “a permanent, ultra-powerful, and unaccountable administrative state that was never contemplated by the Founders,” it suggests several reforms. It takes a dark view of federal employees, stating that “this administrative state now operates outside the bounds of the Constitution, so powerful that it has come to be considered a fourth branch of the government. For the sake of our republic and the happiness of the American people, the administration of government must be reformed, lest it become permanently and fatally destructive to the securing of the rights of the citizenry.” The Caucus offers several solutions to rein in the federal workforce:
- Federal employees should be considered at-will employees, as congressional staff currently are.
- The size of the federal workforce should be reduced by attrition, by limiting new hires to one employee for every three who leaves the workforce.
- Automatic pay raises (annual across-the-board pay raise and step increases) for federal employees should be eliminated. Pay increases for federal employees should be merit-based, not automatic, and also limited to parallel pay increases in the private sector.
- Taxpayers should be protected by prohibiting union work by federal employees on official time and by ending the practice of the federal government serving as the dues collector for the unions.
- Agencies should be required to seek annual congressional approval for the expenditure of fines and user fees collected under their jurisdiction.
- Congress should utilize the Holman Rule in appropriations bills to remove unneeded positions.
- Spending limits should be put in place for federal employee conferences, and the heads of federal agencies should be required to personally approve the most expensive conferences.
You will recall that the Holman Rule is an adopted rule in the House of Representatives for the remainder of calendar year 2018 that allows amendments to appropriations (funding) measures that can reduce or eliminate the salary of, fire individual federal employees, or cut a specific program.
The Republican Study Committee budget also proposes several reforms to the federal employee retirement and health care system:
- The defined benefit pension would be calculated using the highest five-year period.
- The share of employee contributions to FERS should be increased over time, to more closely align with the private sector.
- The cost of living adjustments (COLA) for FERS and CSRS retirees should be reduced or eliminated.
- The Special Retirement Supplement, which provides additional benefits for retirees younger than 62 but who had a long federal work history, would be eliminated.
- The interest rate provided by the G Fund in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) should be reformed to more accurately reflect the yield on a short- term T-bill rate, which would essentially eliminate any earnings.
- The proposal would eliminate the existing Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and the government contribution formula for premiums, replacing it with a voucher system where individuals would receive a one-time payment to be used for the purchase of health insurance on the individual market.
While these proposals are not new, and in particular from this caucus, they join growing calls for cuts to federal spending in the wake of the recently-enacted tax reform legislation, including from mandatory spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and federal employee benefit programs. And, some of the specific retirement and health care proposals closely align to what the Administration has proposed to Congress in its own budget request for FY 2019.
NTEU has fought these proposals before, and we will continue to do so in order for the federal workforce to remain the best civil service in the world, and for our members’ income security.