So, what does all this mean for feds?
First, the fiscal cliff agreement doesn’t address the pay freeze for federal workers in any way. The bill that would extend the pay freeze for feds is a separate piece of legislation, which passed in the House with a sizeable majority, 287-129, but has not been brought to the floor of the Senate. If it contained only a pay freeze for feds, it probably wouldn’t be considered by the Senate. However, because it also includes a pay freeze for Members of Congress, who want to demonstrate their austerity to the public, it might well pass in both chambers, if not in the 112th, then in the 113th, even though the fiscal cliff bill already freezes Member salaries. My bet is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) won’t bring it to the floor of the Senate in either the 112th or the 113th.
Even in the absence of separate legislation, however, the pay freeze won’t necessarily end. Remember that no FY13 appropriations bills have passed, and that the current CR expires on March 27. Given the fact that Congress still has to deal with the debt ceiling as well as a host of other fiscal issues not addressed in the fiscal cliff agreement, as well as the next sequester deadline of March 2, chances are great that they’ll simply extend the current CR for the remainder of FY13. If left unchanged, that would extend the pay freeze as well. Even though the CR permits the administration to accelerate spending in order to avoid furloughs, I would think it unlikely that the president would take any action on this prior to the expiration of the CR.
This insight into Congress and the executive branch comes from Ken Gold, Director of the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University. For further coverage read the latest GAI newsletter.