White House poised to fight GOP on fed pay bump

By Robin Bravender | 03/08/2023 04:02 PM EST

“We value the federal employees,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday as the president prepares to release his budget proposal later this week.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks to reporters Wednesday at the White House.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks to reporters Wednesday at the White House. Evan Vucci/Associated Press

The Biden White House appears poised to make a budget-season push to boost pay for federal workers and increase taxes for oil companies.

With President Joe Biden set to unveil his annual spending wish list, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre previewed some of the highlights — and points of political friction — during a press conference Wednesday.

Biden’s budget plan coming Thursday would “cut the deficit by nearly $3 trillion over the next 10 years,” Jean-Pierre said.


The president’s budget plan would cut the deficit “while lowering costs for families, investing in America and protecting programs Americans have paid into,” Jean-Pierre said, “because it proposes tax reforms to ensure the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share while cutting wasteful spending on special interests, like Big Oil and Big Pharma.”

Biden has repeatedly criticized the size of oil and gas companies’ profits as “outrageous.” He suggested last fall that if oil companies didn’t do more to lower costs at the pump, that his team would ask Congress to force them to pay “a higher tax on their excess profits” (E&E News PM, Oct. 31, 2022).

The president’s annual budget wish list signals the White House’s spending priorities but is often largely ignored by congressional appropriations. House Republicans will be a particular obstacle for Biden, with calls for limiting spending and increasing energy production to reduce the deficit.

‘We value the federal employees’

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Biden is set to propose a 5.2 percent pay bump for federal workers in his budget request, a figure that’s certain to prompt a fight with the GOP majority in the House.

Jean-Pierre declined to confirm the 5.2 percent figure, saying “you’re going to have to wait for the budget on that piece.”

She added, “We value the federal employees, what they do for the nation day-in and day-out, and recognize their commitment and dedication.”

And she stressed the president’s support for federal workers, suggesting that the government needs to be able to compete for talent.

“It is critical to position federal government to better compete in the labor market to attract and retain a well-qualified federal workforce,” Jean-Pierre said. “As the president has said, the strength of our organization rests in its people.”

In December, Biden approved a 4.6 percent average pay increase for federal workers, which advocates at the time hailed as the largest pay increase federal workers had seen in 20 years (Greenwire, Jan. 3).

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chair of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, criticized what he called “reckless government spending” by Biden and Democrats.

“We should be putting American taxpayers first, not the federal bureaucracy,” Comer said in a statement.

Biden, Comer said, “is continuing to ensure that federal workers’ pay and benefits are insulated from the price-tag of inflation, but it will be paid for by American taxpayers who continue to be harmed by the Biden Administration’s inflationary policies.”

Congressional Democrats have sought a much larger pay increase for federal workers. A bill from Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) would boost federal employees’ pay by 8.7 percent in calendar year 2024.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, a group that advocates for federal workers, welcomed reports that Biden’s budget would include a 5.2 percent pay hike.

“Keeping up with private-sector pay growth is essential to maintaining the federal government’s ability to recruit and retain a highly qualified and effective workforce,” said NARFE National President William Shackelford. “While pay rates for public servants will still trail private-sector rates, a proposed average raise of 5.2 percent would ensure they will not fall further behind.”

Reporter Kevin Bogardus contributed.