Senate Appropriators Join House in Blocking OPM-GSA Merger

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Senators go with Trump's latest proposal for a 2.6% civilian pay raise for 2020 but no locality increase, while the House has approved an average 3.1% raise.

A Senate panel on Tuesday advanced a fiscal 2020 spending bill that would, among other things, block the Trump administration from implementing its plan to merge the Office of Personnel Management with the General Services Administration, a development that could mark the end of the fight over the future of the federal government’s HR agency.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Financial Services and General Government sent its fiscal 2020 appropriations package to the full committee, totaling $24.2 billion across 27 agencies and representing a $773 million increase over fiscal 2019 spending.

According a bill summary provided by committee Democrats, the legislation “rejects” the Trump administration’s controversial plan to send most of OPM’s functions to GSA and vest its rulemaking authority in a non-Senate confirmed position within the White House. The plan, mentioned as part of the president’s management agenda in 2018 but not formally proposed to Congress until earlier this year, was met with skepticism by lawmakers in both parties.

Instead, the appropriations bill would fund OPM in fiscal 2020 to the tune of $339.3 million, an increase of $43 million over fiscal 2019 spending and well more than the estimated $23.3 million budget shortfall the agency would face next year due to the transition of background check activities to the Defense Department. Those figures match provisions passed by the House in June.

The Senate version of the bill has no provision regarding federal civilian employee compensation, effectively endorsing President Trump’s alternative pay plan that would provide a 2.6% across-the-board raise to federal workers, but no increase in locality pay. In contrast, the House approved an average 3.1% raise for civilian feds, which includes an additional average 0.5% increase to locality pay on top of the 2.6% raise proposed by the president.

The White House declined to comment on the bill’s OPM provisions. The full Senate Appropriations Committee is slated to consider the legislation Thursday.

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