Associations representing federal law enforcement agencies are fighting proposals on Capitol Hill that would include them in a third — or possibly fourth — year of pay freezes for civilian government employees.
The military is exempt from the flatlined paycheck policy currently in place through 2012 for the federal workforce, and this would continue to be the case in bills being pushed in both chambers to extend the freeze.
But officers from across the federal law enforcement community argue that they are vital to national security and risk their lives defending Americans — just like members of the armed forces. They say they should be subject to a carve-out, too.
“The most imminent threat to our country are threats here in this country,” said Jon Adler, national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “We are the ones who are stopping, preventing, capturing, investigating and pursuing those who want to do harm to our homeland.
“For [lawmakers] to overlook federal law enforcement officers, an essential component to homeland security, makes me think they are legislating with blindfolds and earmuffs,” he continued.
The House passed a bill last week to extend through 2013 the current federal workforce pay freeze, as well as the moratorium on cost-of-living adjustments to Congressional salaries set to expire at the end of the year.
The ball now falls in the Senate’s court.
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said he is seeking legislative vehicles to carry an extension of the pay freeze through next year. And to help offset the looming sequestration of $600 billion in the defense budget scheduled to begin next January, a group of Senators that includes John McCain (R-Ariz.) has introduced legislation to freeze government employees’ pay through 2014.
Konrad Motyka, president of the FBI Agents Association, said that he, like Adler, is lobbying lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to urge consistency in how they determine who is “essential” to national security.
“The president himself and various Members from both parties say the military protects the country and therefore it should be exempt from budgetary constraints,” Motyka said. “We say that you could take the same reasoning and apply it to those who work in federal law enforcement.”
Motyka and his colleagues have an ally in Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), co-chairman of the House Law Enforcement Caucus.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.