Government affairs

Legislative Updates

House passes FY 2016 budget conference agreement—Senate up next

Following a House and Senate conference to work out the differences between each chamber’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget resolutions considered in March (H. Con. Res. 27 and S. Con. Res. 11), the House on Thursday passed S. Con. Res. 11 by a vote of 226-197.

This plan keeps intact in FY 2016 discretionary spending levels—$523 billion for defense and $493.5 billion for non-defense—and includes additional defense spending plus an extra $96 billion for overseas contingency operations, a figure that is $38 billion more than the Obama administration’s request allowing for higher defense funding without an offset requirement.

While the House plan originally proposed making cuts to a wide-range of programs by instructing every House committee to find savings through budget reconciliation, conferees ultimately agreed to the Senate’s plan, which opted only to focus reconciliation on the committees with jurisdiction over the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

This is a minor victory for letter carriers and all federal employees, since House and Senate conferees ultimately rejected proposals in H. Con. Res. 11 that took aim at federal employees by seeking an addition $318 billion from the federal/postal community. As you may recall, those recommendations, which came from the Simpson-Bowles Fiscal Commission, sought to:

  • Eliminate both FERS and FEHBP and converting FEHBP into a voucher plan.
  • Require all federal workers to pay an additional 6 percent of salary toward retirement with no increase in benefits.
  • Cut the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition.
  • Target the Thrift Savings Plan by reducing the rate of return on the G Fund.

Simpson-Bowles also outlined postal-specific cuts of $40 billion over 10 years, including service cuts affecting both the frequency and type of mail delivery, and it proposed stripping postal employees of their rights to negotiate over their contributions for health and life insurance.

While this appears to be good news in this particular budget battle, the agreed upon levels continue to unfortunately be insufficient, since sequestration remains in place and Congress will be looking at federal and postal employees in a quest to find an estimated $9 billion in savings in 2016 and nearly $194 billion over the next 10 years.

Federal employees also will remain vulnerable as Congress tackles upcoming priorities—think the Highway Trust Fund, the Debt limit, or any other issue du jour that needs an offset.

While action on the budget resolution is far from final (with the Senate expected to vote on it next week), it is highly unlikely that  President Obama would sign this deal, making it a blueprint for Congress as it continues its appropriations process in May and June.

“The GOP budget is just another in a long list of attacks on middle-class federal workers,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), who serves as ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “These cuts are unacceptable, and I will fight them every step of the way.”

NALC urges all members to remind your representatives in the House and Senate that federal and postal employees already have sacrificed enough—to the tune of a three-year pay freeze and more than $150 billion in cuts to pay and benefits. Remind your congressional reps that there are other reforms that could strengthen the government without punishing the federal and postal workforce.

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