By Deirdre Walsh, CNN Senior Congressional Producer — Two weeks before automatic cuts are scheduled to hit government agencies the House of Representatives passed a bill freezing federal workers’ pay for the third year in a row.
The vote was 261-154, with 10 Republicans breaking with their leadership and opposing the measure. Forty-three Democrats voted for the bill.
The bill overturns an executive order President Obama signed recently authorizing a pay raise for federal workers. It extends the current federal worker pay freeze for non-military workers, Members of Congress, members of the President’s Cabinet, and the Vice President’s office. In the last Congress the House passed a measure freezing salaries for House members through the fiscal year, which ends at the end of the September. This bill extends that through the end of the calendar year.
Maryland Democratic Rep Elijah Cummings, whose Baltimore district is home to tens of thousands of federal workers, criticized Republicans for targeting government employees, and said Congress instead should be working to avoid the automatic cuts.
“There are only five legislative days left before the across-the-board cuts required by sequestration will take effect. Rather than seeking solutions to the urgent challenges we face, Republicans are wasting two days simply renewing their attacks on middle-class federal employees,” Cummings said.
Republicans who backed the bill said that in a time when Americans faced a tough economy government workers should not be getting pay raises.
“Good-paying full-time jobs should not be limited to those fortunate enough to work for the federal government,” said California GOP Rep Darrell Issa. ” At a time when hardworking American taxpayers are struggling to find work and keep their heads above water, the federal government offices work force a sufficient and generous pay and job security.”
The House bill is not expected to go anywhere in the Democratic controlled Senate, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide.
As the mandatory budget cuts loom at the beginning of March, and both chambers leave for a scheduled one week recess, there are no bipartisan negotiations going on to head them off. House Speaker John Boehner repeated his stance that it’s up to Senate Democrats to address the issue.
“Our position is very clear. We’ve outlined it. It’s time for the Senate to do their work. We can – we can – if they’re willing to pass a bill, we’ll find some way to work with them to – to address this problem,” Boehner told reporters Thursday.
Senate Democrats unveiled a proposal to replace the sequester on Thursday, but it includes tax increases, which Congressional Republicans flatly reject. House Republicans passed their own measure twice last year, but since this is a new Congress that bill is moot and they would need to pass something else in order to avert the cuts.