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House Approves Federal Pay Raise; Sends Omnibus to Senate

Humberto Sanchez | Government Executive

December 11, 2009

The House on Thursday took a major step toward wrapping up the fiscal 2010 appropriations process when it approved, 221-202, a nearly $450 billion spending package that includes a 2.0 percent pay raise for civilian federal employees.

Rejecting President Obama’s recommendation to freeze locality pay at 2009 rates, the House allocated 1.5 percent of the 2.0 percent raise to base pay and 0.5 percent to locality pay.

The spending package includes six of the seven annual appropriations bills Congress has yet to enact. All Republicans, as well as 28 Democrats, opposed the bill.

The Senate will consider the package over the weekend, because Republicans are blocking a consent agreement to complete the measure early next week.

“If cloture needs to be invoked, then the Senate will need to be in session this weekend for a Saturday vote and a Sunday vote,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said. While Reid did not bring up the matter and allow the GOP to object, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made clear that would be the end result.

“We expect to be here this weekend, and look forward to it,” McConnell said.

Reid argued the package would pass regardless, with the Senate either staying in to let the cloture clock run over the weekend or agreeing to skip those steps and vote Monday. Senate aides said he would likely file cloture Thursday on the omnibus, setting up a Saturday cloture vote and a Sunday vote on passage.

The package includes six fiscal 2010 spending bills, including the $67.9 billion Transportation-HUD bill, the $64.4 Commerce-Justice-Science bill, the $24.2 billion Financial Services bill, the $163.6 billion Labor-HHS bill, the $78 billion Military Construction-VA bill, and the $48.7 billion State-Foreign Operations bill.

The House and Senate are pushing to clear a second spending package before the end of next week, when the current funding extension expires. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the House will act early next week on the fiscal 2010 Defense spending bill, with an increase to the statutory debt ceiling and a jobs package attached.

Pelosi indicated that bill will likely be the vehicle to extend unemployment insurance, and COBRA health and food stamp benefits, tax breaks for small businesses — as well as more federal money to states and localities to try to avoid public employee layoffs. She said there could be an infrastructure component attached as well.

House Appropriations Committee ranking member Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., said Republicans would not support the Defense package if it included extraneous provisions. He also blasted the $446.8 billion bill for including a 14 percent increase for domestic programs, while military construction and veterans funding are held to a 5 percent boost.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wisc., countered that most of the increases are for veterans, war costs, infrastructure and health care. During Republican control, he added, omnibus packages were common and domestic programs were ignored.

Dan Friedman and Billy House contributed to this report.<

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