Washington (CNN) – A top lobbying group for federal workers rushed to Capitol Hill Thursday, following news that budget negotiators were considering a $20 billion change in government workers’ paychecks. The fast pushback is a potential political issue for budget leaders who aides say have been getting closer to a deal.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, who sits on the budget compromise committee, told reporters Thursday that Republicans were pushing for, and negotiators have been discussing, a proposal to increase how much most federal workers contribute toward their pension. A senior Republican House aide confirmed to CNN that the idea has been on the table in spending talks.
“This is something we strongly oppose,” said Jessica Klement, spokeswoman for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, or NARFE. Out of breath while walking between congressional offices, Klement told CNN she is worried that the change may already be a done deal.
“But we have to operate under the mindset of fighting this as seriously as we can,” she insisted.
Reaction is quick, but the idea is not new, nor is it solely Republican. President Barack Obama included the change in his proposed 2014 budget, a fact that Republicans stress.
The idea has appeal because it brings in $20 billion in revenue without raising taxes. Currently, 0.8 percent of most government paychecks go toward the federal pension plan. The proposal would more than double that contribution, taking out 2 percent of each paycheck. For someone making the federal average of $78,000, this would mean $936 less in pay over a year.
House Democratic leaders quickly moved into verbal battle Thursday.
“I vehemently oppose efforts to target and single out these hardworking, middle-class Americans,” said Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, whose district includes many federal workers.
Hoyer and others stress that while this would not increase taxes for the general public, it would affect the paychecks of roughly 2 million government employees.
Republicans respond that the government long has shouldered too great a share of federal worker pensions. And, again, they point out that President Obama proposed the idea himself.
One senior House Republican aide told CNN that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for Democrats to block a possible spending deal over the pension change alone.
In addition, the original Ryan budget would have mandated much larger contributions from government workers: bringing in $132 billion over ten years, rather than the $20 billion area discussed in budget talks.
Budget negotiators have until Dec. 13 to come up with a deal.
Why must the ones that carry out the laws that Congress passes be the target of the cuts? This doesn't make sense to me.
Just like a Government worker they don't care that we pay for their retirement it's about time that they pay too.
God forbid that Federal workers put more money from their paycheck towards their retirement. We do that in the private sector!!!
I don't blame them. Federal workers have not had a pay raise in years!
Whenever the Democrats don't like the way the "Behind closed door" negotiations are going, they run out of the meeting to the nearest microphone to sabotage the talks so no further progress can be made because all the negotiator's need to prematurely defend work in progress. How can the group do their work when they need to battle the things that have not been decided yet. The time to opine is when the draft of the bill is put on the floor for debate, that's when Mr. Van Holland will have his opportunity to vent his support of opposition. Until then, let the group do the work they are supposed to be doing. In do time the American people will decide what's right for us.
OMG!!! They may make federal workers take a pay or benefit cut!! What do they think we are???? Do they REALLY think that federal workers are like those lowly private sector workers? Government workers don't take cuts in pay or benefits AND we they get larger raises every year than those peons in the private sector!
How stupid can people get. Imagine, having people pay more into their own retirement fund so that the government saves money and those federal workers end up with more when they retire. don't even think about asking people to give up their Starbucks in the morning. Prime example of why we are where we are. Gimmie, gimmie, gimmie.