Saturday, July 29, 2017

NARFE Legislative Hotline July 28, 2017

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“We are just days away from the start of Grassroots Advocacy Month, and it could not come at a more critical time. The federal community is facing many threats during the federal budget process, and your legislators need to hear from you. It is time we use our collective voice to let legislators know that we will not stand for ANY cuts to our earned pay and benefits. Proposals that would negatively impact your retirement, such as eliminating or reducing your cost-of-living adjustments, are on the table. If we do not speak out against cuts to your earned pay and benefits, Congress will view this as acceptance.”

TSP Modernization Act Approved by Senate Committee

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) followed its House counterpart and approved the TSP Modernization Act of 2017, S. 873. The bill was approved by voice vote in the committee. The legislation would allow multiple partial post-separation withdrawals, which participants can time to their individual needs and provide multiple age-based withdrawals for participants who are still working and are older than age 59-1/2. The bill also would add flexibility to withdrawals by allowing the election of quarterly or annual payments and permit periodic withdrawals that can be changed at any point during the year. Payments could be stopped while allowing the account balance to remain in the TSP. Finally, the bill would eliminate the withdrawal election deadline.

NARFE supports the legislation and sent a letter urging HSGAC members to advance the proposal. The bill now must be considered by the full Senate and House. NARFE members are encouraged to send a letter to their legislators asking them to support the bill here.

Republican Study Committee Releases Proposed Budget 

The Republican Study Committee (RSC), a group of about 150 lawmakers, released its fiscal year 2018 budget proposal this week. The budget includes similar and additional cuts to the earned pay and benefits of the federal community that were previously suggested by the president and the House Budget Committee.

The proposal recommends that current employees contribute a higher percentage toward their retirement and their retirement benefits be calculated by a worker’s highest five years of salary as opposed to the current three years. The RSC also proposes cutting the annual across-the-board pay increases for current federal workers by 0.5 percent below what the current formula allows. Additionally, the budget includes eliminating the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) annuity supplement for employees who retire before age 62. 

Within the proposed budget is a recommendation to voucherize the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), which would limit the government’s contribution toward premiums and cause enrollees to pay a greater share over time. Of note, the recently introduced budget proposals from the president and the House Budget Committee did not include any changes to FEHBP. Finally, the RSC budget proposal prohibits automatic deductions of union dues for federal employees, eliminates the use of union official time and recommends considering all employees as “at-will.” 

NARFE stands against the cuts outlined in all of the aforementioned budget proposals. Members are strongly encouraged to write and call their legislators in defense of the federal community.

Use of the Holman Rule Defeated in the House

The House defeated its first attempt this year to use the Holman rule by a vote of 116-309. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-VA, offered an amendment to a four-bill appropriations minibus, which would have abolished the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) 89-employee budget analysis division.

Under the Holman Rule, an amendment may be offered during floor debate on an appropriations bill to do any of the following: reduce the number of employees within a federal agency; reduce the salaries of those employees, or even a single employee’s salary; or, eliminate one particular federal position.

NARFE stands against the use of the Holman rule — which was last used in the 1980s — and lobbied for its removal from the House rules package. Hopefully, the resounding failure of this amendment will serve to prevent its use in the future.

House Passes $788 Billion “Minibus” Spending Package

The House passed a $788 billion "minibus" spending bill, which would fund the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Energy Department, the Department of Defense and the legislative branch for fiscal year 2018. The bill passed by a vote of 235-192. Of note, the package includes a 2.4 percent increase in military pay.

The spending levels outlined in this package are not likely to become law without additional action to lift the strict caps on spending set forth by the 2011 Budget Control Act. Bipartisan budget negotiations will determine the ultimate levels, and final appropriations will be determined thereafter. Eight other spending bills, which would fund the rest of the federal government, still await action by the House. The current federal spending authority expires on September 30.

Grassroots Advocacy Month is Almost Here!

It’s nearly August, which means Grassroots Advocacy Month is almost here.

During NARFE’s Grassroots Advocacy Month, NARFE members are encouraged to take advantage of the long congressional recess to reconnect with legislators and urge them to oppose any cuts to the earned pay and benefits of the federal community. Are you ready to stand in opposition to harmful policies affecting the federal community?

NARFE members are encouraged to check out NARFE’s grassroots resources on the NARFE Grassroots Advocacy page here. Make sure to log in to the NARFE website so you can access this important information. If you have not done so already, get acquainted with Grassroots Advocacy Month by watching NARFE’s webinar "Choose Your Own Advocacy Adventure: Preparing for August" here.

Hotline on an As-Needed Basis Until September 8

Due to the congressional recess, the Hotline will be published on an as-needed basis until September 8. In lieu of the Hotline, the NARFE Legislative Department will send messages regarding how NARFE members can take action during Grassroots Advocacy Month.

Make Your Voice Heard in Congress

NARFE members are encouraged to use the new easy-to-use NARFE Legislative Action Center to send letters to members of Congress on a variety of NARFE issues, sign up for action alerts and track NARFE-related bills and votes.

Have you attended a meeting, town hall or telephone town hall with your senator(s) or representative recently? Fill out a simple feedback form here in the Action Center to tell NARFE’s legislative staff the details of your legislator’s stance on NARFE issues.

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website and available to NARFE members via telephone by calling 703-838-7780 or toll-free at 877-217-8234. Past editions are archived online for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at or call 703-838-7760.

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