Obama Freezes Government Workers' Pay For 2 Years
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
GUY RAZ, host:
And I'm Guy Raz.
President Obama today proposed freezing the salaries of some two million federal workers. The announcement comes on the eve of a meeting with Republican congressional leaders and amid growing concern over the deficit. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
BRIAN NAYLOR: Federal salaries have been an irresistible target for deficit cutters ranging from incoming House Republican leaders to the presidential deficit commission. So President Obama moved to the front of the parade with his call today to freeze federal salaries for the next two years starting, January 1st.
Noting he's already frozen the pay of White House staffers, Mr. Obama said it was time to impose similar treatment on the rest of the federal bureaucracy.
President BARACK OBAMA: In these challenging times, we want the best and brightest to join and make a difference, but these are also times where all of us are called on to make some sacrifices. And Im asking civil servants to do what theyve always done: play their part.
NAYLOR: The President's proposed freeze exempts members of the military. The White House says the action will save $2 billion for the rest of the current fiscal year and $28 billion over the next five years. That's small change compared to the $1.3 trillion deficit. John Gage calls it a slap in the face to federal workers. Gage is head of the American Federation of Government Employees.
MR. JOHN GAGE (American Federation of Government Employees): Two unfunded wars, stock market collapse and trying to solve this deficit by going after working people's salary. I just expected more from the Obama administration.
NAYLOR: Gage calls the freeze a superficial panic reaction and says the White House is overstating its impact.
The action must be approved by Congress, which has already frozen its pay. Colleen Kelley, President of the National Treasury Employees Union hopes the democratic-led lame duck Congress will reject it.
Ms. COLLEEN KELLEY (President, National Treasury Employees Union): I think this was a surprise to an awful lot of people when this announcement came out today. And so we're going to work with Congress and with anyone else to look at what all the options are.
NAYLOR: And that's clearly the union's best hope of heading off a federal pay freeze. Republicans, who will control the House starting in January, want much deeper cuts in government spending and say a freeze is just the start. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.
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