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Worker backlash to spending cuts

By Charles Riley, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Workers in the crosshairs of efforts to cut federal spending are pushing back.

Just a few weeks into the new Congress, House Republicans have introduced proposals that would freeze worker pay, reduce the workforce through attrition and cut the operating budgets of federal agencies.

And that's just the Republicans. Late last year, Congress approved a two-year freeze on federal worker pay requested by President Obama.

Safe to say, workers are starting to feel picked on, and now their unions are ramping up efforts to push back against further cuts.

"Nobody is thinking about the on-the-ground impact these proposals have in real America," said William Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, which represents 110,000 workers.

Any further cuts, Dougan said, have the potential to ripple through communities that depend on federal workers, causing greater pain than lawmakers realize.

The unions are also warning that government agencies won't be able to function properly.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley sent a letter to lawmakers last week, arguing that a rollback in spending would lead to "drastic across the board reductions in funding would severely impact the ability of federal agencies ... to accomplish their missions, and result in the loss of billions in revenue."

Last week, the House Republican Study Committee -- which includes some of the party's most conservative members -- introduced a bill that would eliminate automatic pay increases for civilian federal workers for five years and cut the civilian workforce by a total of 15% through attrition.

"Now that we have some specific proposals, I think that is going to help us focus our efforts in Congress and the media, and taking our message to not only our members, but to the public," Dougan said.

Lawmakers are well aware their proposals will face stiff opposition.

"You start going to individual programs, of course there is a constituency that likes that and thinks that needs to be there ... the bigger concern is the $14 trillion national debt," said Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio.

Indeed, Republican lawmakers are not just aiming at federal workers but other parts of the budget as well. And so they will be hearing it from all quarters.

"This is why it's so hard to get through specific cuts through Congress," said Craig Jennings, the director of federal fiscal policy at OMB Watch. To top of page

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