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Analysis: Bill Proposes Federal Pay Freeze As Inauguration Looms

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Federal employees have been working under a salary freeze for two years, but under an executive order from President Obama, that freeze is set to expire at the end of March. But a group of lawmakers introduced a bill this week to extend that salary freeze through the end of the year in an effort to cut spending, putting compensation for federal workers once again on the table.

David Hawkings, editor-in-chief of CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, talks with WAMU's Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey about pay for federal workers and the buzz in Washington as the city prepares for President Obama's second inauguration.

Whether the bill to continue federal workers' pay freeze will pass: In terms of the pay raise this year, there is not going to be a narrow approach to just do little trims like that, so the so-called 'Desantis bill,' that's not going to go anywhere," says Hawkings.

On other possible impacts of budget negotiations on federal compensation: "I think that in the big picture, that compensation for federal workers … is on the table. Not only cash compensation but probably more importantly, because it's the bigger money saver, is the pension system for federal employees," Hawkings says. "There was some serious talk of limiting pension benefits for federal workers during the talks towards the so-called 'grand bargain' two summers ago. That's definitely one of the building blocks for a big deal."

How the new Capitol Police Chief, Kim Dine, is handling the responsibility of the inauguration: "He knows his capital because before he was in Frederick he was on the D.C. force for 27 years, and he was in charge of the first district, which takes in Capitol Hill," Hawkings says. "He's seen as somebody who's up to the task. You know, the Capitol Police is a huge nationwide force. It's also very much of a concierge service, in that members who have security concerns at home call on the Capitol Police chief. So it requires enormous political skill. If done right, it can lead to advancement — the former police chief is now the Senate Sergeant at Arms — if done wrong, it can end your career."

On how important it is for D.C. that the inauguration goes well: "It's high risk, high reward for the District. It's not going to be the same sort of crowd as 4 years ago, when there were 1.8million, but people are ta;king about no more than 800,000," Hawkings says. "But 800,000 from around the country is still an enormous amount and these are not just any people, these are opinion makers from all over the country, prominent people who, if the District treats them right and they have a good time, will go home and spread the good word about hospitality and security in the District. If something goes wrong, the opposite will be the case."

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