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Dec. 16, 2011

Congressional Leaders Reach Deal on 2012 Spending Bill, Averting Government Shutdown: Congressional leaders Thursday night finalized a deal to fund the government through the end of fiscal 2012. The $1 trillion spending agreement, which funds most federal agencies, effectively averted a possible government shutdown that would have resulted in furloughs of federal employees and cuts in public services. The bill passed the House Friday afternoon and is expected to pass the Senate. Under the bill, some agencies see a reduction in their budget:

  • EPA: The Environmental Protection Agency receives $8.4 billion, which is $233 million less than last year’s budget and $524 million below the president’s request. Among other things, the bill cuts $14 million in clean air and climate research programs; $12 million in regulatory development office and $14 million in air regulatory programs.
  • Health and Human Services: HHS receives $69.7 billion, which is nearly $700 million below last year’s level and $3.4 billion below the president’s request.
  • Education: The Department of Education is funded at $71.3 billion, $153 million below last year’s level and $9.3 billion below the president’s request.
  • FEMA: FEMA took a big hit. The bill gives the agency $4.7 billion, a $2.9 billion reduction from last year’s level.
  • National Park Service: NPS receives $2.6 billion, a $32 million reduction.
  • Forest Service: The agency receives $4.6 billion, which is $91 million less.
  • District of Columbia: The bill gives D.C. $665.6 million, $33 million less than last year’s and $51 million less than the president’s request.

Other agencies see an increase:

  • Defense: DoD’s discretionary funding is $518.1 billion, an increase of $5.1 billion over last year’s and $20.8 billion below the president’s request.
  • Social Security Administration: SSA is funded at $10.6 billion, which is $74 million above last year’s level and $865 million below the president’s request.
  • Veterans Affairs: VA receives $58 billion in discretionary funding, a $2.1 billion increase over last year’s level but $3.85 billion below the president’s request.
  • Army Corps of Engineers: The agency is funded at $5 billion, which is $145 million more than last year’s and $429 million above the president’s request.
  • Small Business Administration: SBA receives $919 million, a $189 million increase.
  • Transportation Security Administration: TSA’s 2012 budget stands at $7.8 billion, an increase of $153 million over last year’s and $274 million below the president’s request. The bill caps the screening workforce at 46,000 full-time employees. 
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement: ICE receives $5.9 billion, a $50 million increase.
  • Customs and Border Protection: The bill contains $11.7 billion for CBP, a $362 million increase. This provides for a total of 21,370 Border Patrol agents and 21,186 CBP officers – the highest staffing levels in CBP’s history.
  • Coast Guard: The Coast Guard receives $10 billion in 2012, which is $86 million above last year’s level.
  • Labor: DOL’s 2012 budget stands at $14.5 billion, a $145.4 million increase but $251.2 million below the president’s request.

The bill doesn’t include appropriations for the following agencies because Congress already approved theirs last month: NASA, Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and some small agencies.

Right Wing House Lawmakers Pass Payroll Tax Cut Bill Funded by Federal Employees, Taxpayers: Right-wing lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a payroll-tax cut bill that would double tax middle income Americans by freezing pay for another year for federal employees and reducing the federal workforce without regard to workload, effectively forcing federal agencies to outsource work to private companies, which cost almost twice as much as federal employees. The right wing refused to ask their millionaire and billionaire supporters who benefit more from the economy to chip in, but instead they wanted middle-class federal employees who are struggling along with everybody else to shoulder the burden on top of what they’ve already sacrificed –$60 billion in savings in the next decade from the two-year pay freeze. Washington-are lawmakers this week vowed to fight any proposal targeting federal pay and benefits.

Besides making federal employees pay for the tax cut, the right wing also wanted to punish the unemployed. The bill would reduce the maximum time people who are out of work can receive benefits from 99 weeks to 59 weeks. It would require the unemployed to undergo drug testing before receiving any unemployment benefits. The bill was sent towards its certain demise in the Senate, but the vote was blocked by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell because some senators do not want to take a stance on some controversial provisions, including drug testing.

Governmentwide A-76 Outsourcing Ban Remains: Pending the final passage of the 2012 omnibus spend bill that funds most federal agencies, several AFGE-backed provisions regarding the flawed, expensive A-76 outsourcing process will be retained, including a ban on A-76 at all agencies in the 2012 Finance Services Appropriations bill. The final version of the 2012 Defense Authorization bill, which is not part of the omnibus, also has several AFGE-backed measures. These provisions, which have been approved by the full House and Senate this week, will, among other things:    

  • Require DoD to eliminate contractor positions performing inherently governmental functions and bring the work back in-house if it still needs to be done. This is the first time ever that Congress will try to systematically enforce the law prohibiting contractors from doing inherently governmental work. Thousands of inherently governmental positions have been outsourced.
  • Cap service contract spending at fiscal 2010 levels. DoD cannot raise the cap unless it raises the cap on the civilian workforce as well.
  • Require DoD to adopt a so-called Total Force Management to better plan how to account for the cost and size of its military, civilian, and contractor workforces.

AFGE was also able to beat back contractors’ attempt to eliminate insourcing in the Defense Authorization bill, thanks to our allies in Congress who are staunch supporters of federal employees and protectors of taxpayers’ dollars. For example, we defeated House provisions that would have made it legal for contractors to perform inherently governmental work and would have narrowly defined critical functions to allow more work to be outsourced. 

2.5 Million Young Adults Have Gained Coverage Under Healthcare Reform Act: President Obama’s healthcare reform law has shrunk the number of young adults without health insurance. According to figures released by the National Center for Health Statistics on Wednesday,  2.5 million young adults aged 19-25 have gained health insurance coverage since the health care reform law took effect in 2010. Under the law, young adults can stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 2.5 million more young adults don’t have to live with the fear and uncertainty of going without health insurance,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Moms and dads around the country can breathe a little easier knowing their children are covered.”

In 2014 when another policy becomes effective, it will be illegal for a health insurance company to deny coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition.

Federal Retirements Rise 24%: More federal employees are leaving the government. For the first 10 months of 2011, 92,000 people have already submitted their retirement applications – a 24 percent increase from the same period last year. If this trend continues, 2011 will be the biggest retirement year since 2001 except for 2006 when more than 103,000 federal employees retired. The surge in retirements could be a result of buyouts and early outs offered by agencies looking to reduce their workforces. Uncertainty in Congress is also a major factor especially when right-wing lawmakers are looking to cut federal employees’ pensions and benefits on top of the two-year pay freeze. 

AFGE Denounces Bill to Remove Officer Title from TSA Employees: AFGE denounced a right-wing-backed bill in the House that would remove the officer title from federal airport screeners who put their lives of the line every day to protect our skies and the flying public.

“Every single member of Congress should be supporting federal employees, not trying to demean them,” AFGE President John Gage said. “Reps. Blackburn, Mica and their other cohorts in the House need to stop bullying the TSA workforce, and maybe just worry about doing their own jobs. Instead of actually helping to fight terrorism, they are inspiring the type of unnecessary and disrespectful behavior by a few members of the public with an agenda that in fact diverts attention from securing American skies.”

Bill Introduce to Cut Federal Workforce to Protect Defense Contractors: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon has introduced a bill that would protect defense contractors by cutting the federal workforce by 10 percent over 10 years. McKeon’s bill calls for a reduction of the federal work force by hiring one federal worker for every three who retire to pay for one year of sequestration for defense and non-defense categories. He said that would generate $127 billion. From this, $55 billion could pay for the first year of defense cuts under sequestration.

Sens. John McCain, Jon Kyl, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte said this week they will propose legislation early next year that would stop sequestration defense cuts.

Tweet of the Week: “Today is National Cupcake Day. Please take a moment to remember all the brave cupcakes who died keeping America fat.” ~ TheTweetOfGod

Awkward Family Holiday Photo: This one belongs to Jorge Santini, mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Japanese Dalmatian Riding a Bike: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roJzWYiXFtg

Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” to learn about the union’s position on Washington’s budget fight. The show, which originally aired on Friday, Dec. 16, is now available on demand.

AFGE National President John Gage discussed the budget stalemate and the impact cuts would have on public service. National Secretary-Treasurer J. David Cox then addressed the need to properly care for our nation’s veterans, especially the men and women returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gage and Cox also previewed AFGE’s 2012 agenda. AFGE Department of Housing and Urban Development Local 3258 member Mark Butler also discussed his book, “The Coffee Break Guide for Veterans Seeking Federal Employment.”

Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online atwww.federalnewsradio.com.

Quote of the Week

President Barack Obama in response to 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft’s comment that the president was being judged now on his own performance.

"No, no, no. ... I'm being judged against the ideal. And, you know, Joe Biden has a good expression. He says, 'Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative.'"

American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO 80 F Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001 | Tel. (202) 737-8700 | Fax (202) 639-6492 | www.afge.org

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