Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD), today wrote to Acting Director Russell T. Vought to express grave concern over a new Trump Administration proposal that would, among other things, effectively end Congress’ ability to provide advice and consent over the individual responsible for establishing federal workforce policy and regulations. As part of a White House proposal sent to congressional leaders on Thursday, workforce policy responsibilities currently executed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) would be transferred to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), thereby taking these crucial duties from a Senate-confirmed director and assigning them to an administrator appointed directly by the President.

“We wish to express both our frustration about the lack of transparency that defined the Administration’s drafting of this proposal and our grave concern that these changes will negatively impact and further undermine our country’s federal workforce,” the Senators wrote. “The vast majority of the federal workforce is comprised of career civil servants who perform their duties apolitically and without regard to which party presently heads the Executive Branch. These dedicated employees are the lifeblood of our democracy and it is imperative that they continue to be insulated from the political impulses of this President and any future President. Federal workers have every right to be concerned with this proposal and the Administration owes them substantially more information and transparency than has been provided to date.”

Last Thursday, May 16, the Trump Administration requested congressional authorization to merge the vast majority of OPM functions and responsibilities into the General Services Administration (GSA), including Human Resources Solutions, Information Technology, Retirement, and Health and Insurance Services. A key component of this proposal involves transferring the role of establishing government-wide workforce policy to a new Office of Federal Workforce Policy within OMB, which rests under the authority of the Executive Office of the President. This move would remove the Senate’s ability to have pre-selection oversight over the individual responsible for setting policies and regulations that affect federal workers nationwide, therefore opening the doors for this, or a future Administration, to act with political motivation towards the federal workforce.

In their letter to OMB, the Senators conveyed great concern about the possibility of allowing politically-motivated individuals to set policies that affect loyal public servants in apolitical career roles. They also questioned Acting Director Vought about the nature of this unprecedented decision and its effect on federal workers – and requested that no further action be taken until all questions are thoroughly addressed. These questions include:

What analysis has been conducted to evaluate the potential costs and risks associated with this proposal? What specific factors have been considered, and which perceived benefits were regarded as outweighing any disruption and risk to the federal workforce?

  • How can federal workers nationwide and Congress feel confident that neither this President nor any future President would act to politicize civil service or take retaliatory or punitive action against federal workers?
  • What other changes to federal workforce policy or the organization of OPM and/or GSA does the Administration plan to take before receiving—or absent altogether—additional Congressional authorization to implement aspects of this proposal? If any, under what statutory authority does the Administration perceive to be empowered to take such actions?
  • What input was considered from Members of Congress, congressional committees, or federal workforce unions, management associations, professional associations, and affinity groups in drafting this proposal?
  • What impact would this proposal have on the number of individuals employed by OPM? In what ways would the number of individuals dedicated to the current responsibilities and mandates of OPM change with the implementation of this proposal? Does this proposal assume increased or flat funding authorization levels for GSA after the merge?
  • Does the Administration believe GSA currently has adequate cybersecurity resources and funding to appropriately protect their current mission, in addition to that of OPM?

Sens. Warner, Kaine, Cardin, and Van Hollen have been long-time, outspoken advocates for federal workers. In February, the Senators pressed OMB to implement the 1.9 percent pay increase for federal employees they worked to pass into law earlier in the year. Amid the partial federal government shutdown, the Senators took a series of actions to protect affected workers, including guaranteeing back pay for federal employees, urging back pay for contractors, introducing budget amendments to protect federal workers, and urging OPM to prevent the termination of dental and vision insurance for federal employees.

Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.

May 20, 2019

The Honorable Russell T. Vought

Acting Director

Office of Management and Budget

Executive Office of the President

Washington, DC 20503

Dear Acting Director Vought:

We write today in response to your proposal to merge the functions and responsibilities of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) within the General Services Administration (GSA). Specifically, we wish to express both our frustration about the lack of transparency that defined the Administration’s drafting of this proposal and our grave concern that these changes will negatively impact and further undermine our country’s federal workforce.

In your letter to Congress dated May 16, 2019, you outline a proposal to transfer the “vast majority” of OPM’s current mission to GSA. As you note, this would include Human Resources Solutions, Information Technology, Retirement, and Health and Insurance Services. The proposal would also create an Office of Federal Workforce Policy within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which would assume the workforce policy responsibilities currently executed by OPM.

We have serious concerns with housing this new Office of Federal Workforce Policy within the Executive Office of the President, and having it run by an Administrator appointed directly by the President and without Senate confirmation. Your proposal details that this Office is to, among other functions, “provide overall strategic direction and coordination of workforce policy and regulations for all Executive agencies, other than the Government Accountability Office.” The vast majority of the federal workforce is comprised of career civil servants who perform their duties apolitically and without regard to which party presently heads the Executive Branch. These dedicated employees are the lifeblood of our democracy and it is imperative that they continue to be insulated from the political impulses of this President and any future President.

Federal workers have every right to be concerned with this proposal and the Administration owes them substantially more information and transparency than has been provided to date. To that end, we ask that you provide responses to the following questions:

  • What analysis have you conducted to evaluate the potential costs and risks associated with this proposal? What specific factors did you consider, and which perceived benefits did you regard as outweighing any disruption and risk to the federal workforce?
  • The civil service system is statutorily required to be apolitical and merit-based. However, this proposal would significantly impede Congress’ ability to conduct oversight over this matter by no longer allowing the Senate to provide advice and consent over the individual directly responsible for setting all federal workforce policy and regulations. How can federal workers and Congress feel confident that neither this President nor any future President would act to politicize civil service or take retaliatory or punitive action against federal workers?
  • What other changes to federal workforce policy or the organization of OPM and/or GSA does the Administration plan to take before receiving—or absent altogether—additional Congressional authorization to implement aspects of this proposal? If any, under what statutory authority does the Administration perceive to be empowered to take such actions?
  • What input did you consider from Members of Congress, congressional committees, or federal workforce unions, management associations, professional associations, and affinity groups in drafting this proposal?
  • What impact would this proposal have on the number of individuals employed by OPM? In what ways would the number of individuals dedicated to the current responsibilities and mandates of OPM change with the implementation of this proposal? Does your proposal assume increased or flat funding authorization levels for GSA after the merge?
  • Does the Administration believe GSA currently has adequate cybersecurity resources and funding to appropriately protect their current mission, in addition to that of OPM?

As a first step in conducting oversight of this dramatic proposal, our federal workforce is owed answers to these questions. Until the aforementioned questions have been thoroughly addressed and the authorities under which you are proposing such actions are clearly articulated, we respectfully request that you take no further action on this or any related matter.

We request your reply by the end of this month. We will continue to actively monitor the Administration’s explanation of this proposal to other Members of Congress and to the public, and look forward to your reply.

 Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD), today wrote to Acting Director Russell T. Vought to express grave concern over a new Trump Administration proposal that would, among other things, effectively end Congress’ ability to provide advice and consent over the individual responsible for establishing federal workforce policy and regulations. As part of a White House proposal sent to congressional leaders on Thursday, workforce policy responsibilities currently executed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) would be transferred to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), thereby taking these crucial duties from a Senate-confirmed director and assigning them to an administrator appointed directly by the President. 

“We wish to express both our frustration about the lack of transparency that defined the Administration’s drafting of this proposal and our grave concern that these changes will negatively impact and further undermine our country’s federal workforce,” the Senators wrote. “The vast majority of the federal workforce is comprised of career civil servants who perform their duties apolitically and without regard to which party presently heads the Executive Branch. These dedicated employees are the lifeblood of our democracy and it is imperative that they continue to be insulated from the political impulses of this President and any future President. Federal workers have every right to be concerned with this proposal and the Administration owes them substantially more information and transparency than has been provided to date.”

Last Thursday, May 16, the Trump Administration requested congressional authorization to merge the vast majority of OPM functions and responsibilities into the General Services Administration (GSA), including Human Resources Solutions, Information Technology, Retirement, and Health and Insurance Services. A key component of this proposal involves transferring the role of establishing government-wide workforce policy to a new Office of Federal Workforce Policy within OMB, which rests under the authority of the Executive Office of the President. This move would remove the Senate’s ability to have pre-selection oversight over the individual responsible for setting policies and regulations that affect federal workers nationwide, therefore opening the doors for this, or a future Administration, to act with political motivation towards the federal workforce. 

In their letter to OMB, the Senators conveyed great concern about the possibility of allowing politically-motivated individuals to set policies that affect loyal public servants in apolitical career roles. They also questioned Acting Director Vought about the nature of this unprecedented decision and its effect on federal workers – and requested that no further action be taken until all questions are thoroughly addressed. These questions include:

  • What analysis has been conducted to evaluate the potential costs and risks associated with this proposal? What specific factors have been considered, and which perceived benefits were regarded as outweighing any disruption and risk to the federal workforce?
  • How can federal workers nationwide and Congress feel confident that neither this President nor any future President would act to politicize civil service or take retaliatory or punitive action against federal workers?
  • What other changes to federal workforce policy or the organization of OPM and/or GSA does the Administration plan to take before receiving—or absent altogether—additional Congressional authorization to implement aspects of this proposal? If any, under what statutory authority does the Administration perceive to be empowered to take such actions?
  • What input was considered from Members of Congress, congressional committees, or federal workforce unions, management associations, professional associations, and affinity groups in drafting this proposal?
  • What impact would this proposal have on the number of individuals employed by OPM? In what ways would the number of individuals dedicated to the current responsibilities and mandates of OPM change with the implementation of this proposal? Does this proposal assume increased or flat funding authorization levels for GSA after the merge?
  • Does the Administration believe GSA currently has adequate cybersecurity resources and funding to appropriately protect their current mission, in addition to that of OPM?

Sens. Warner, Kaine, Cardin, and Van Hollen have been long-time, outspoken advocates for federal workers. In February, the Senators pressed OMB to implement the 1.9 percent pay increase for federal employees they worked to pass into law earlier in the year. Amid the partial federal government shutdown, the Senators took a series of actions to protect affected workers, including guaranteeing back pay for federal employees, urging back payfor contractors, introducing budget amendments to protect federal workers, and urging OPM to prevent the termination of dental and vision insurance for federal employees.

 

Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.

 

May 20, 2019

 

The Honorable Russell T. Vought

Acting Director

Office of Management and Budget

Executive Office of the President

Washington, DC 20503

 

Dear Acting Director Vought:

We write today in response to your proposal to merge the functions and responsibilities of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) within the General Services Administration (GSA). Specifically, we wish to express both our frustration about the lack of transparency that defined the Administration’s drafting of this proposal and our grave concern that these changes will negatively impact and further undermine our country’s federal workforce.

In your letter to Congress dated May 16, 2019, you outline a proposal to transfer the “vast majority” of OPM’s current mission to GSA. As you note, this would include Human Resources Solutions, Information Technology, Retirement, and Health and Insurance Services. The proposal would also create an Office of Federal Workforce Policy within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which would assume the workforce policy responsibilities currently executed by OPM.

We have serious concerns with housing this new Office of Federal Workforce Policy within the Executive Office of the President, and having it run by an Administrator appointed directly by the President and without Senate confirmation. Your proposal details that this Office is to, among other functions, “provide overall strategic direction and coordination of workforce policy and regulations for all Executive agencies, other than the Government Accountability Office.” The vast majority of the federal workforce is comprised of career civil servants who perform their duties apolitically and without regard to which party presently heads the Executive Branch. These dedicated employees are the lifeblood of our democracy and it is imperative that they continue to be insulated from the political impulses of this President and any future President.

Federal workers have every right to be concerned with this proposal and the Administration owes them substantially more information and transparency than has been provided to date. To that end, we ask that you provide responses to the following questions:

  • What analysis have you conducted to evaluate the potential costs and risks associated with this proposal? What specific factors did you consider, and which perceived benefits did you regard as outweighing any disruption and risk to the federal workforce?
  • The civil service system is statutorily required to be apolitical and merit-based. However, this proposal would significantly impede Congress’ ability to conduct oversight over this matter by no longer allowing the Senate to provide advice and consent over the individual directly responsible for setting all federal workforce policy and regulations. How can federal workers and Congress feel confident that neither this President nor any future President would act to politicize civil service or take retaliatory or punitive action against federal workers?
  • What other changes to federal workforce policy or the organization of OPM and/or GSA does the Administration plan to take before receiving—or absent altogether—additional Congressional authorization to implement aspects of this proposal? If any, under what statutory authority does the Administration perceive to be empowered to take such actions?
  • What input did you consider from Members of Congress, congressional committees, or federal workforce unions, management associations, professional associations, and affinity groups in drafting this proposal?
  • What impact would this proposal have on the number of individuals employed by OPM? In what ways would the number of individuals dedicated to the current responsibilities and mandates of OPM change with the implementation of this proposal? Does your proposal assume increased or flat funding authorization levels for GSA after the merge?
  • Does the Administration believe GSA currently has adequate cybersecurity resources and funding to appropriately protect their current mission, in addition to that of OPM?

As a first step in conducting oversight of this dramatic proposal, our federal workforce is owed answers to these questions. Until the aforementioned questions have been thoroughly addressed and the authorities under which you are proposing such actions are clearly articulated, we respectfully request that you take no further action on this or any related matter.

We request your reply by the end of this month. We will continue to actively monitor the Administration’s explanation of this proposal to other Members of Congress and to the public, and look forward to your reply.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine are celebrating the culmination of their successful efforts to get federal employees in Virginia Beach and Norfolk a much-deserved pay raise, as the President signed an executive order that designates a locality pay adjustment for Hampton Roads. This adjustment will increase salaries for approximately 30,400 Virginians in Virginia Beach and Norfolk in order to better reflect the rising costs of living in the area. Warner and Kaine have pushed OPM to take the necessary steps to implement a pay raise for Hampton Roads federal employees. While federal employees in the region could have been receiving higher pay last year, OPM’s delay in implementing the pay scale adjustment exacerbated the situation for Virginia families who had been long-expecting a raise. 

“There is no doubt that hardworking federal employees deserve this long-overdue pay raise,” the Senators said. “As the cost of living has increased in Hampton Roads, we have long fought to provide federal workers in the area a needed boost. We’re hopeful that the new pay rates will offer peace of mind to those who work hard to serve our country.”

In 2017, Kaine and Warner wrote to the Acting Director of OPM to express concern that federal employees in the Hampton Roads region were led to believe they would see a pay raise for calendar year 2017 and asked that the agency take quick action to implement the pay scale adjustment. Senators Warner and Kaine have also cosponsored legislation to provide all federal workers a pay raise of 3.6 percent, an increase from FY19’s 1.9 percent average.

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) – all members of the Senate Committee on the Budget – filed four amendments to the Fiscal Year 2020 budget resolution aimed at protecting federal employees and contractors. The amendments would put the Senate on the record in favor of preserving retirement security for federal employees, and providing back pay to service contractors affected by the recent federal government shutdown. 

“Federal workers are the backbone of our government. If we want to recruit and retain top talent, we have to offer competitive pay and benefits, including retirement security,” said Sen. Warner, who added, “Though the shutdown itself may be over, for many federal contractors who went without pay for 35 days, the effects have been long-lasting. The Senate cannot forget about these workers, many of whom work paycheck to paycheck. We owe it to them to provide back pay.” 

“This year, federal workers experienced the longest shutdown in history. Their finances were pinched and their families were hurt. As we look at next year’s budget, my priority is to ensure that we’re protecting federal workers against pay cuts, preserving their retirement security, and trying to secure back pay for the service contractors impacted by government shutdowns,” said Sen. Kaine. 

“Our federal workers and federal contract employees provide crucial services to the American people. These amendments will protect the hard-earned paychecks and benefits of our federal employees and help secure back pay for contract workers harmed by the government shutdown,” said Sen. Van Hollen.

One amendment would ensure that federal workers are not shouldering more than their fair share of deficit reduction. This amendment would establish a scorekeeping rule that would prevent federal employees from being subject to increased retirement contributions meant to offset the cost of other, unrelated congressional spending. Despite there being no solvency concerns related to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), Congress has repeatedly increased the required federal employee contribution rate without offering any additional benefit. Combined with years of pay freezes, the increased requirements have resulted in de facto pay cuts for thousands of hardworking federal employees. 

Another amendment would preserve the retirement security of civil service employees by preventing further retirement benefit reductions and protecting the retirement plans that employees have spent decades building.

A third amendment would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to provide back pay to service contractors affected by the recent government shutdown. The shutdown caused more than 800,000 employees and thousands of contractors to go without pay for 35 days, and while affected federal employees were assured that they would be compensated for their missed wages, their contractor colleagues – who perform essential functions like cleaning, food service, and security – were not given that same guarantee. This amendment would put the Senate on the record in support of making these workers whole, following the record-breaking shutdown. 

A fourth amendment would protect federal workers’ retirement benefits by striking a provision in the draft budget that could cut federal employees’ benefits by at least $15 billion.

Sens. Warner, Kaine, and Van Hollen have fiercely advocated for federal employees and contractors, especially during and following the government shutdown. In January, the Senators, along with several colleagues, introduced a bill to pay back federal contract workers after the shutdown. They also joined a bipartisan group of Senators earlier this month in urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to include contractor back pay in the upcoming disaster package. Additionally, the Senators pressed OMB in February for a timeline detailing the implementation of the 1.9 percent pay increase for federal employees that the Senators worked to pass into law earlier in the year. 

The Senate Budget Committee is scheduled to begin its two-day markup on the FY20 budget resolution on Wednesday, March 27. Though nonbinding, the budget resolution provides a blueprint for future congressional action on federal programs.  

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R Warner (D-VA) and a bipartisan group of 38 Senators sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging the inclusion of back pay for federal contract workers impacted by the government shutdown within the upcoming disaster relief package. While federal workers harmed by the government shutdown have since been compensated for their lost wages, federal contract employees –  including janitorial, food, and security services workers – who were furloughed or forced to accept reduced work hours have not. In their letter, the Senators urge the Appropriations Committee to include provisions to fix this wrong in upcoming appropriations legislation. 

The Senators write, “Contractor workers and their families should not be penalized for a government shutdown that they did nothing to cause.”

They continue, “Contractor employees perform jobs that are critical to the operations of our government, such as food service, security, and custodial work. These are often low-wage jobs that require workers to live paycheck to paycheck. As a result, the shutdown has left contractors struggling with unpaid rent and other mounting bills that many of these workers still cannot afford without back pay.”

The Senators close the letter stating, “There are bipartisan bills in both houses of Congress that would provide back pay to compensate contractor employees for their lost wages. As supporters of this effort, we urge you to include back pay for contractor employees in a supplemental appropriations bill for FY2019 or as part of the regular appropriations process for FY2020.”

In addition to Senator Van Hollen, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Mark Warner (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

In January, Senator Van Hollen joined Senator Tina Smith and others in introducing the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act, which now has 48 cosponsors in the Senate and 68 in the House of Representatives. Senator Van Hollen also led a letter with 33 Democratic Senators to the Office of Management and Budget to urge them to direct federal agencies to work with contractors to provide back pay to compensate low- and middle-income contractor employees for the wages they have lost during the shutdown. Under their existing authority, federal contracting officers could use provisions that allow them to modify the terms of the contract to work with contractors to provide back pay for employees who lost wages as a result of the government shutdown.

A copy of the letter is available here and the text of the letter is available below:

 

Dear Chairman Shelby and Vice Chairman Leahy:

 

As discussions proceed for upcoming appropriations bills, we urge you to include a provision to provide back pay to compensate federal contractor employees for the wages they lost as a result of not being able to report to work during the recent government shutdown. 

 

Contractor workers and their families should not be penalized for a government shutdown that they did nothing to cause. While federal employees received back pay at the end of the shutdown, federal contractors did not. Contractor employees perform jobs that are critical to the operations of our government, such as food service, security, and custodial work. These are often low-wage jobs that require workers to live paycheck to paycheck. As a result, the shutdown has left contractors struggling with unpaid rent and other mounting bills that many of these workers still cannot afford without back pay.

 

There are bipartisan bills in both houses of Congress that would provide back pay to compensate contractor employees for their lost wages. As supporters of this effort, we urge you to include back pay for contractor employees in a supplemental appropriations bill for FY2019 or as part of the regular appropriations process for FY2020.

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) and Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (both D-Va.) sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Russell Vought to request a timeline for the implementation of the 1.9 percent pay increase for federal employees that the Senators worked to pass into law earlier this year. While the pay increase was signed into law on February 15, the President has yet to sign an Executive Order to implement the increase. 

The Senators write, “As you know, Congress passed a 1.9% pay raise for federal workers, retroactive to January 1, in the Consolidated Appropriations Act that President Trump signed into law on February 15. However, federal worker paychecks still reflect the pay freeze that President Trump instituted for 2019 prior to passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act.”

They continue, “More than 800,000 dedicated federal workers went without pay during the recent government shutdown. We ask that you provide a timeframe for when these civil servants will see this modest cost-of-living adjustment in their paycheck.”

Earlier this year, the Senators fought for the inclusion of this modest cost of living adjustment in the budget funding agreement. The full text of the letter is available here and below. 

 

Dear Mr. Vought:

We are writing to inquire about the status and timeline for implementing the 1.9% pay raise for federal workers that Congress enacted in legislation to fund the government for fiscal year 2019. 

As you know, Congress passed a 1.9% pay raise for federal workers, retroactive to January 1, in the Consolidated Appropriations Act that President Trump signed into law on February 15. However, federal worker paychecks still reflect the pay freeze that President Trump instituted for 2019 prior to passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act.

More than 800,000 dedicated federal workers went without pay during the recent government shutdown. We ask that you provide a timeframe for when these civil servants will see this modest cost-of-living adjustment in their paycheck.

Thank you for your time and attention on this important matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) today in urging the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to do everything in its power to prevent the termination of dental and vision insurance coverage for federal employees affected by the partial government shutdown. In a letter to OPM, the Senators stood up for the federal employees who risk losing their coverage unless they pay out of pocket for premiums that would usually be deducted from their paychecks.

“Your guidance to employees has been insufficient and fails to account for the significant financial strain already placed on these employees and their families,” wrote the Senators. “If the status quo persists, you are undoubtedly risking the health and wellness of federal workers, their spouses, and children enrolled in federal vision and dental plans. We have already heard from individuals who are worried about what this will mean for them and their health care needs.”

“We believe it is unreasonable to expect unpaid employees to take on this financial responsibility,” continued the Senators. “Instead, we ask that you immediately work with federal contractors administering these dental and vision benefits to develop alternative payment arrangements that ensure continuous coverage at no risk of terminated benefits. In addition, we ask that – upon any such agreement – you immediately reissue guidance to employees who are in jeopardy of having their benefits terminated.”

OPM recently announced that many federal employees enrolled in the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program will be billed directly for their premiums after the date of their second missed pay period – as soon as this Friday. This notice places additional financial pressure on strained government employees who are already struggling to pay for expenses like childcare and mortgages.

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

 

January 23, 2019

Margaret Weichert

Acting Director

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

1900 E Street NW, Washington, DC 20415

Dear Acting Director Weichert:

We write today concerning federal employees that may lose their dental and vision health insurance benefits as a result of the government shutdown. As you may know, if the current lapse in government funding continues more than 800,000 federal employees will miss their second pay period. From this time forward – federal employees with dental and vision insurance must also begin to pay their premiums directly to BENEFEDS or risk having their coverage terminated.

Recent guidance from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to federal employees’ enrolled in the BENEFEDS dental and vision plans states:

“Payroll deductions will cease for any employee that does not receive pay. BENEFEDS will generate a bill to enrollees for premiums when no payment is received for two consecutive pay periods. The enrollee should pay premiums directly billed to him/her on a timely basis to ensure continuation of coverage.”

The above guidance will require federal employees to tap into their savings and pay these costs or risk having their coverage terminated. We are alarmed that unpaid federal employees will be required to incur this additional financial hardship during a time when they can least afford it. This is unacceptable.

Your guidance to employees has been insufficient and fails to account for the significant financial strain already placed on these employees and their families. If the status quo persists, you are undoubtedly risking the health and wellness of federal workers, their spouses, and children enrolled in federal vision and dental plans. We have already heard from individuals who are worried about what this will mean for them and their health care needs. We also understand that certain insurers are willing to allow individuals to continue their coverage without payment, and we encourage OPM to continue to work with all insurers to help members maintain continuity of coverage.

We believe it is unreasonable to expect unpaid employees to take on this financial responsibility. Instead, we ask that you immediately work with federal contractors administering these dental and vision benefits to develop alternative payment arrangements that ensure continuous coverage at no risk of terminated benefits. In addition, we ask that – upon any such agreement – you immediately reissue guidance to employees who are in jeopardy of having their benefits terminated.

Thank you for your attention to this letter. If our offices can be further helpful in resolving this matter please do not hesitate to contact us. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) in introducing legislation to secure back pay for the federal contractor service employees who continue to go without pay during the government shutdown. The bill—the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act—aims to help low-wage federal contractor employees—including janitorial, food, and security services workers—who have been furloughed or forced to accept reduced work hours as a result of the government shutdown. 

“Thousands of people across the Commonwealth are out of a job right now because of President Trump’s unnecessary, destructive shutdown. Right now many low- and middle-wage federal contractors – whose paychecks often depend on the number of hours they work – are worrying about how they’ll afford to keep the lights on or pay their rent. Congress has already passed legislation to secure back pay for federal workers. Federal contractors – especially those who are already working paycheck to paycheck – deserve some peace of mind too. This important bill will ensure that federal service contractors, who work side-by-side with federal employees, get the pay they missed out on because of President Trump’s reckless shutdown,” Warner said

“Just like federal employees, federal contractors work hard to keep our government running. So many of these workers live paycheck-to-paycheck and this painful shutdown has meant that many of them can't afford to pay their bills. This legislation is an effort to ensure that these contractors who have been denied pay during a shutdown they had no role in causing receive the pay they deserve,” Kaine said.

The Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act would provide financial relief for eligible federal service contractors missing pay during the shutdown by:

  • Completely replacing missed wages for workers making less than $50,200 per year (twice the poverty level for a family of four.)
  • Compensating workers earning more than $50,200 per year up to the $50,200 threshold ($965 per week.)
  • Restoring paid leave for workers who were required by the contractor to use it.

The bill appropriates funding for federal agencies to adjust the price accordingly of any contracts impacted by the shutdown. By building on existing contract review and approval processes, the bill provides financial relief for lower-wage workers without creating new administrative or financial burdens for contractors. Eligible employees include those covered under the Service Contract Act (which governs federal service contracts) and the Davis-Bacon Act (which governs federally-funded construction projects). Although the Service Contract Act does not apply to “executive, administrative, or professional” employees, they would be eligible for back pay under the bill.

The bill is also supported by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Doug Jones (D-AL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Angus King (I-ME), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

 

Read a summary of the bill HERE.


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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) led a letter with U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.) to President Trump urging him to meet with federal workers suffering from the impacts of the shutdown. 

The Senators write, “We are writing to ask that you meet with some of the federal civil servants who are either working without pay or locked out of their job as a result of the government shutdown. We believe that you would benefit from listening to their stories.”

They continue, “When asked about the situation facing federal workers, you said, ‘I can relate. I'm sure the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments. They always do.’ Some federal workers – like millions of Americans – live paycheck-to-paycheck. According to the Federal Reserve, 40% of Americans cannot pull together $400 for an emergency, without going into debt or selling something. Speaking with some of the workers who cannot afford to miss a paycheck may help you better relate to the adjustments you expect them to make for your shutdown.”

The Senators closed the letter stating, “You already met a few carefully handpicked federal workers who support your position of shutting down the government to demand taxpayer dollars for a border wall. But the vast majority of federal workers oppose your shutdown, and we hope you will listen to them as well. Most of all, we hope that you will swiftly end this unnecessary and damaging shutdown.”

The full text of the letter is available here and below. 

 

Dear President Trump: 

We are writing to ask that you meet with some of the federal civil servants who are either working without pay or locked out of their job as a result of the government shutdown. We believe that you would benefit from listening to their stories. 

You have said that you are, “proud to shut down the government.” Earlier, you tweeted about the need for a “good shutdown.” We have spoken to federal workers who will not be able to afford to keep their home, purchase their medication, or put money in their child’s school lunch account if this shutdown continues. These civil servants are proud of their jobs, and this government shutdown is preventing them from doing important work for the American people. If you heard directly from them, it would be clear that there is no such thing as a good government shutdown.

When asked about the situation facing federal workers, you said, “I can relate. I'm sure the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments. They always do.” Some federal workers – like millions of Americans – live paycheck-to-paycheck. According to the Federal Reserve, 40% of Americans cannot pull together $400 for an emergency, without going into debt or selling something. Speaking with some of the workers who cannot afford to miss a paycheck may help you better relate to the adjustments you expect them to make for your shutdown.

You already met a few carefully handpicked federal workers who support your position of shutting down the government to demand taxpayer dollars for a border wall. But the vast majority of federal workers oppose your shutdown, and we hope you will listen to them as well. Most of all, we hope that you will swiftly end this unnecessary and damaging shutdown.

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined 32 colleagues in writing to the Trump Administration urging them to direct federal agencies to work with contractors to pay low- and middle-income employees for the wages they have lost during the shutdown. The Senators point out that federal contracting officers typically have existing authority that allows them to modify the terms of contracts, and they are encouraging them to do so.  

The Senators write, “Contract workers and their families should not suffer the consequences of a shutdown that they did not cause. Low-wage service contract workers perform jobs that are absolutely vital to the government, such as food service, security, and custodial work. Many of these workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, and cannot afford to pay their rent and other bills if the shutdown continues.”

They continue, “After past shutdowns, contractor employees have generally not received back pay. In addition to our fight to protect federal workers who are being hurt by this shutdown, we are committed to righting this wrong for contractor employees.”

The Senators close the letter, writing, “We urge you to take immediate steps to ensure that contractor employees get the back pay that they deserve by providing clear directions for agencies and contractors to do so.”

In addition to Warner and Kaine, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), Doug Jones (D-AL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), and Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT).

The text of the letter is available below and here.

 

Dear Mr. Vought:

We are writing to urge you to direct federal agencies to work with contractors to provide back pay to compensate low- and middle-income contractor employees for the wages they have lost as a result of not being able to report to work during this government shutdown.

Contract workers and their families should not suffer the consequences of a shutdown that they did not cause. Low-wage service contract workers perform jobs that are absolutely vital to the government, such as food service, security, and custodial work. Many of these workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, and cannot afford to pay their rent and other bills if the shutdown continues.

After past shutdowns, contractor employees have generally not received back pay. In addition to our fight to protect federal workers who are being hurt by this shutdown, we are committed to righting this wrong for contractor employees. Government contracts typically have provisions to modify the terms of the contract. Federal contracting officers should use these provisions to work with contractors to provide back pay for employees who lost wages as a result of the government shutdown.

Providing back pay to these low- and middle-income contractor employees who are furloughed by their employers is the right thing to do, and it is in the federal government's best interest to provide funding to the extent necessary to ensure that contractors deliver back pay to their workers. Contractor employees cannot afford the chaos and uncertainty of government shutdowns, and some of these workers may seek other jobs if back pay is not provided to compensate for shutdown-related losses. 

Most of all, this wasteful and destructive government shutdown must come to an end. We all support the legislation passed by the House of Representatives to reopen the government, which mirrors legislation that previously passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. 

We urge you to take immediate steps to ensure that contractor employees get the back pay that they deserve by providing clear directions for agencies and contractors to do so.

Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to your reply.

 

Sincerely,

 

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Washington – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) to introduce the Federal Employee Civil Relief Act, legislation that would protect federal workers and their families from foreclosures, evictions, and loan defaults during a government shutdown. 

“With each day that passes during President Trump’s shutdown, hundreds of thousands of federal employees are worrying about how they will pay for their bills even though their paychecks have stopped coming in,” said Sen. Warner. “This important legislation ensures that federal workers don’t face repercussions for making the hard choice between paying for basic necessities and paying their student loans. This unnecessary shutdown is already hurting federal workers, they don’t need additional hardships that could impact their financial future.”

The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act addresses the real threat of federal workers losing their homes, falling behind on student loans and other bills, having their car repossessed, or losing their health insurance because they have been furloughed during a shutdown or required to work without pay. Modeled after the Servicemembers Relief Act, the legislation will prohibit landlords and creditors from taking action against federal workers or contractors who are hurt by the government shutdown and unable to pay rent or repay loans. The bill would also empower federal workers to sue creditors or landlords that violate this protection. The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act would safeguard workers impacted by a shutdown from the following:

  • Being evicted or foreclosed;
  • Having their car or other property repossessed;
  • Falling behind in student loan payments;
  • Falling behind in paying bills; or
  • Losing their insurance because of missed premiums.

The protection would last during and 30 days following a shutdown to give workers a chance to keep up with their bills. The partial government shutdown, now in its third week, hurts hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors. Virginia alone is home to more than 170,000 federal workers.

Additional cosponsors of the bill include U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).

The Federal Employee Civil Act has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA). 

 

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ASHINGTON – Twenty days into the federal government shutdown, the Senate has passed by unanimous consent a bill sponsored by U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and three dozen senators to ensure federal and other government workers who have been impacted by the current federal government shutdown will receive their back pay. The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act stipulates that all employees shall be paid as soon as possible after the lapse in appropriations ends – this includes those forced to work without pay and those locked out of their jobs during the shutdown. The bill also clarifies that excepted employees who have scheduled previously approved leave occurring during an appropriations lapse may indeed take that leave without undue penalty.  It also clarifies that its provisions also apply to employees of the District of Columbia (DC) Government, D.C. Courts, and D.C. Public Defenders Service, who are also affected by federal government shutdowns. 

“On the eve of the first missed payday, the Senate has acted to make sure that federal employees get paid just as soon as the government reopens for business,” said Senator Warner. “I expect that the Democratic House will take up and pass this legislation in short order. Our federal workforce – Americans who dedicate their lives to serving this country – shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of this unnecessary shutdown. The President must allow the government to re-open for business immediately.”

“Yesterday I alerted both caucuses that I would object to Senators leaving for the weekend while 800,000 federal employees were on the cusp of losing out on pay Friday,” Senator Kaine said. “I am thankful that as a result we were able to engage in a discussion that will give those employees some measure of comfort that they will receive their paychecks when the shutdown is over. This is not the same thing as knowing when the shutdown will be over, or receiving their paychecks on time, but it is the right thing to do for us to show these hard working Americans we’re there for them.” 

“Federal workers are dedicated public servants who shouldn’t continue to suffer – working dangerous jobs without knowing when their next paycheck may come, or being forcibly furloughed and unable to carry out their mission – because of the government shutdown. Passage of our bill may not answer the question of when a paycheck will come, but it will guarantee that a paycheck will come when this shutdown finally ends,” said Senator Cardin. “We need to reopen the government immediately. Until we do, passage of our bill should be a sign of good faith and respect for federal workers, as well as a sign to creditors that our public servants will be made financially whole again. The House of Representatives should pass this legislation quickly and send it to the president, who has said he would sign it into law.”

“For three weeks, I’ve heard from the federal workers that I represent who are worried about how they will make ends meet if this shutdown continues. These hardworking men and women have nothing to do with the political gamesmanship that led to the Trump Shutdown, but they’ve had to pay the price,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen. “Today, the Senate has passed our legislation on a bipartisan basis to provide our federal workforce with the much-needed certainty that they will receive their paycheck when the shutdown ends. But they shouldn’t be without a paycheck at all – they should be at work. Now, we must work together to end this crisis and reopen the government without delay.”

“The partial government shutdown represents a failure to govern and harms not only those who need to interact with the closed agencies, but also hundreds of thousands of federal employees and their families who don’t know when they will receive their next paycheck,” said Senator Collins.  “Civil servants bring dedication, competence, and experience to their work, and I appreciate all that they do for our government and our nation.  Our legislation would guarantee that they are paid retroactively as soon as appropriations are restored.  I am also continuing to discuss with the White House and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle ways to bring an end to the shutdown as quickly as possible so that furloughed federal employees can return to work.” 

Additional cosponsors of the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act are: Senators Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Angus King (I-Maine), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

 

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced plans to introduce legislation to secure back pay for the federal contractors who have gone without pay during the government shutdown. Warner and Kaine were joined by Senators Tina Smith, Sherrod Brown, Chris Van Hollen, and Ben Cardin. 

Each day, thousands of federal contractors provide critical services to support the federal government, often at low wages, and many have been furloughed or forced to accept reduced work hours as a result of the government shutdown. Many of these workers are janitorial, food, and security services workers.

“The ripple effect of this unnecessary government shutdown has already been felt by families of all stripes and walks of life across Virginia. Federal employees should be—and always have been—paid retroactively after a government shutdown. That isn’t the case for many low-wage federal contractors—like janitors, security guards, and cafeteria staff—many of whom are already living paycheck to paycheck,” Warner said. “Virginians and Americans across the country have entrusted Congress to work on their behalf, not abandon them in favor of political brinksmanship.” 

“Virginia is being hit hard by President Trump’s shutdown because we have a high number of federal employees wondering if their paychecks will come, but we also have a lot of federal contractors. We often do bills to make sure that paychecks for federal employees are made whole after a shutdown, but it’s not the same for these hardworking federal contractors who just want to do their jobs. To make it worse, many of these federal contractors are living paycheck-to-paycheck, so this really hurts them. I’m glad we are trying to find a way to make sure some of these workers get paid. This shutdown was completely unnecessary and we need to protect people who have been hurt by President Trump’s actions,” Kaine said.

Warner and Kaine have been outspoken against President Trump’s use of a government shutdown as a negotiating tactic. Virginia is home to more than 170,000 federal employees and tens of thousands of federal contractors.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined 28 colleagues, led by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME), in introducing legislation to guarantee back pay as soon as possible for federal workers who go without a paycheck during the current government shutdown. The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act also clarifies that employees who had previously scheduled approved leave occurring during a shutdown may take that leave without undue penalty. 

“Federal employees have worked hard to serve our country and we must ensure they don’t go without the pay their families were counting on just because of the President’s irresponsible actions,” said Warner and Kaine.  

View text of the Government Employee Fair Treatment ActHERE.

 

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WASHINGTON— Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to President Donald Trump, urging him in the strongest possible terms to back off a planned pay freeze for civilian federal employees in 2019.

"We write to urge you in the strongest possible terms to reverse your decision to freeze pay rates for non-military federal workers in 2019. After months of indecisiveness and mixed signals, your decision further penalizes hard-working federal employees already straining under the impact of the unnecessary government shutdown that began on December 22nd," the Senators told Trump. "Freezing pay for federal workers adds insult to injury for dedicated public servants already subject to political attacks and gamesmanship."

While the White House's FY19 budget proposed an across-the-board pay freeze for non-military federal workers, in August, the Senate approved appropriations legislation providing for a 1.9 percent pay increase for federal workers. However, the House's failure to take up the bill allowed President Trump to sign an executive order on December 28 -- day six of the partial government shutdown -- unilaterally freezing pay for civilian federal employees.

In today's letter, the Senators pushed Trump to change course, highlighting bipartisan support for the Senate-passed 1.9 percent pay raise. They also underscored how freezing pay hinders the federal government's hiring competitiveness with the private sector, and called out the President for not doing more to prioritize human capital investments. The Senators also committed to working towards a pay adjustment for FY19 if President Trump fails to reverse his decision.

"There should be a particular sense of urgency in bolstering, rather than undermining, the competitiveness of the federal workforce considering that the share of federal employees eligible for retirement is expected to jump to 30 percent in five years," the Senators wrote. "As a businessman, we would expect you to understand the importance of human capital investments in recruiting and retaining talented employees. We are deeply troubled that you would abdicate your responsibility to ensure the sustainability of the federal workforce—particularly while so many federal employees are actively working without pay during a shutdown triggered by your own equivocation?"

 

The full text of today's letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Mr. President:

We write to urge you in the strongest possible terms to reverse your decision to freeze pay rates for non-military federal workers in 2019. After months of indecisiveness and mixed signals, your decision further penalizes hard-working federal employees already straining under the impact of the unnecessary government shutdown that began on December 22nd.

Freezing pay for federal workers adds insult to injury for dedicated public servants already subject to political attacks and gamesmanship. In February 2018, your administration’s budget proposed freezing federal civilian pay for 2019. In August 2018, the United States Senate included a 1.9 percent pay raise for civilian federal employees in the appropriations bill that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. This action recognized the many contributions of federal workers and rebuked your unsubstantiated proposal to further hinder their economic security and our collective ability to compete with the private sector. There should be a particular sense of urgency in bolstering, rather than undermining, the competitiveness of the federal workforce considering that the share of federal employees eligible for retirement is expected to jump to 30 percent in five years.

As a businessman, we would expect you to understand the importance of human capital investments in recruiting and retaining talented employees. We are deeply troubled that you would abdicate your responsibility to ensure the sustainability of the federal workforce—particularly while so many federal employees are actively working without pay during a shutdown triggered by your own equivocation.

We strongly encourage you to take immediate action to reverse your ill-advised pay freeze and lift federal workers from this added layer of financial insecurity. Should you choose not to change course, we will continue working on a bipartisan basis to ensure federal workers receive a pay adjustment for Fiscal Year 2019.