In a bid to show his administration is concerned about cutting the nation's massive deficit, President Obama today announced a two-year freeze in pay for federal civilian workers that is expected to save some $28 billion over the next five years.
The move, which must be approved by Congress, would freeze pay for all federal workers in FY 2011 and FY 2012, and would save more than $5 billion over those two years and some $60 billion over the next decade, according to the White House. It would not affect military personnel.
Fiscal issues are expected to be front and center in the coming weeks and months, as a new crop of Republicans -- many of whom ran on a pledge to cut spending -- enter Congress. The pay freeze announcement is a way for the White House to get out in front of those discussions.
"The hard truth is that getting this deficit under control is gonna require some broad sacrifice, and that sacrifice must be shared by the employees of the federal government," Obama said. "After all, small businesses and families are tightening their belts. Their government should, too."
The issue of how to reduce government spending is likely to come up on Tuesday, when the president is set to host a meeting with the bipartisan congressional leadership at the White House to talk about what can get done in this lame-duck session of Congress. Obama said he hoped the meeting would mark "a first step towards a new and productive working relationship" because the two parties had a "shared responsibility" to deliver results for the American people.
In a fact sheet and a conference call with reporters, White House officials sought to highlight other steps the administration has taken to try to rein in spending. The president froze the salaries for all senior White House officials -- and has proposed extending that freeze for senior political appointees throughout the government. He also proposed eliminating bonuses for political appointees, and he set a three-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending in the 2011 budget.
The president's bipartisan deficit commission is set to release a full set of recommendations this week. The president said he hoped the commission's report would spark a "serious and long overdue conversation" in Washington.
"My hope is that starting today we can begin a bipartisan conversation about our future, because we face challenges that will require the cooperation of Democrats, Republicans and independents," Obama said. "We're gonna have to budge on some deeply held positions and compromise for the good of the country."