House Approves Budget Plan that Would Cut Federal Employee Benefits

By Erich Wagner

October 5, 2017

House lawmakers voted 219-206 Thursday to approve a resolution outlining the body’s fiscal 2018 budget priorities, which include a number of controversial cuts to federal employees’ retirement and benefits programs.

The House’s budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 71) asks 11 committees to come up with a total of $1.5 trillion in spending cuts through budget reconciliation, setting the stage for Republicans’ tax reform initiative. Within that, the legislation mandates that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which oversees federal compensation and retirement programs, cut $32 billion over the next 10 years.

The resolution does not specify how the oversight committee should achieve savings, but the Trump administration last spring proposed a number of changes to federal retirement: a 6 percentage point increase in employee contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System, phased in over six years; the elimination of cost of living adjustments for FERS employees and a 0.5 percent reduction in COLAs for Civil Service Retirement System enrollees; elimination of the FERS supplement for employees who retire before Social Security kicks in at age 62; and basing the value of retirement benefits on the highest five years of employees’ earnings instead of the current highest three years.

» Get the best federal news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

The House budget report also offers two new avenues for cutting federal workers’ compensation. It proposes reducing the rate of return for the Thrift Savings Plan’s G Fund, which is made up of government securities, to make it more indicative of its low “investment risk profile.”

And lawmakers proposed changing how the government calculates its contribution to Federal Employees Health Benefits Program premiums. Instead of basing the maximum calculation on the weighted average of the cost of all plans within FEHBP, the federal contribution would increase at the rate of inflation.

Jessica Klement, legislative director of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, described the potential cuts to federal compensation as “hypocrisy.”

“This sets the stage for the federal community to pay for tax reform,” she said. “You’re paying for middle class tax cuts on the backs of middle class federal employees and retirees. It goes against the fundamental premise of this tax reform package.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., the vice ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called the budget resolution “ruinous,” and said that while his committee would be responsible for $32 billion in cuts, the cost of the overall budget to federal workers and retirees could reach as high as $163 billion over the next decade.

“Federal employee pay and benefits are not the cause of this country’s deficit and debt,” Connolly said. “The federal workforce has already contributed nearly $200 billion toward reducing the country’s deficits in the form of pay freezes, pay raises insufficient to keep pace with inflation, furloughs and increased retirement contributions. We should honor and revere the service of our federal workforce, not denigrate it with the attacks included in this ugly budget.”

National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon decried the proposal, which he said would unfairly punish government employees.

“On paper, it may look like a way to save money but in the real world, cutting the paychecks and retirements of federal employees, just to help pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, is a mean-spirited way to build a national budget,” Reardon said. “Since when is it acceptable to attack the very people who are providing hurricane relief, protecting clean air and water, conducting cutting-edge scientific research, enforcing the tax laws, securing the border, maintaining the national parks and guarding our financial system?”

On Thursday, the Senate Budget Committee marked up its own fiscal 2018 budget proposal. Ahead of the meeting, it only provided reconciliation instructions to its Finance and Energy and Natural Resources committees. Once passed by the full Senate, lawmakers will need to iron out the differences between their budgets before committees can begin work to find savings.

3 total views, no views today

During Visit A Factory Worker Tears Into Paul Ryan

For many Republicans in America’s heartland, the level of frustration with Washington D.C. is at an all time high. The GOP has the White House and both chambers on Capitol Hill, but little is being accomplished. The promises made to get elected going unfulfilled. Many waited eight long years through the previous administration, and their patience is running thin.

On Wednesday at a manufacturing plant in Wisconsin, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) faced this frustration head on.

A worker at the plant said, “I think for eight horrible years I heard, ‘We don’t have control of the House, we don’t have the Senate, we don’t have the presidency.’ OK? And ‘when we get in, we have a plan, and we’re going to change stuff.’ Well, I’ll tell you what, you’re in there now, and all I see is infighting, it is very dysfunctional.”

Ryan had little to say other than to agree that when the GOP health care bill imploded due to lack of Republican consensus, “It was extremely frustrating.” The Speak of the House was left with just this, “I don’t run the Senate. I run the House.”

6 total views, no views today

NY Post Columnist: If Dems Take The House, Trump Will Be Impeached

By Susie Madrak

The Morning Joe gang was pulling apart Trump’s latest poll numbers this morning, and Joe Scarborough supplied some historical context.

“You look at the states where Trump did very well in November and his approval ratings are in the mid to high 80s, and let’s not forget Richard Nixon never dropped below 50% until the day he resigned,” Scarborough said.

“If Mike Pence or Jeff Flake were to challenge him, people would be like, ‘we don’t have to have somebody who acts crazy in the White House who actually is a hard core conservative….”

New York Post opinion writer John Podhoretz said Trump had bigger problems.

“But you’re jumping pretty far ahead in time that we’re going to have an election next year,” he said.

“If he’s got 80% in Alabama, it’s not like a Democrat is going to win the Senate in Alabama. There is a senatorial race in Alabama and no Democrat is going to win that now or in 2018. That’s not the issue.

“The plain political issue is, Democrats need 24 House seats to take the House back in 2018, and the table is being set pretty nicely for them to get that number. And if they get that number, or ten more than that number, he’s gonna to get impeached. I’m not saying he’s going to get convicted and thrown out of office, saying the House will impeach him if Democrats have a ten-seat majority.

“If he doesn’t right the ship, he’s Clinton in 1998 and 1999 with no recovery possible. Clinton was doing that at a time of explosive economic growth.”

 

 

3 total views, no views today

BREAKING: House Releases $4 Trillion Budget, Turns Medicare Into Voucher System, Huge Cuts

Republicans in the House released their budget plan on Tuesday, and it calls for tremendous cuts to food stamps and other social safety net programs, as well as turning Medicare into a voucher-like program, which would be a complete overhaul of the program.

Republican leaders say the $4 trillion budget plan will move the government from a $472 billion deficit in 2018 to a $9 billion budget surplus by 2027, but that’s assuming a 2.6% rate of economic growth, much larger than even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s estimates which peg growth at 1.9%.

In order to get these numbers, they’re proposing slashing $500 billion from Medicare, $1.5 trillion from Medicaid, and enormous cuts to federal employee pensions, food stamps and tax credits for the working poor.

If Medicare is turned into a voucher system, which Republicans have been trying to do for some time now, it will essentially force seniors to pay out-of-pocket for their own healthcare. While vouchers would pay for some of the costs, it would get rid of the single-payer system retirees have relied on to cover the majority of their healthcare costs.

Right now it’s unclear how much those vouchers or “premium support” as Speaker Ryan puts it, will be. That means if you receive a voucher and it’s not enough to cover the costs of private insurance, tough luck.

The Republican budget also calls for $622 billion in defense spending as well as another $511 billion in nondefense discretionary spending in 2018.

Since the budget isn’t finalized yet, it’s still possible for different levels of spending to be passed but conservatives say they want even deep cuts while moderates say it goes too far.

The budget plan also proposes to overhaul the U.S. tax code and is essential for Republicans to avoid a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.

6 total views, 3 views today