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Obama Proposes Civilian Pay Freeze to Help Tackle Federal Deficit

President Barack Obama delivers a statement to members of the media in the in the Old Executive Office Building, on the White House campus in Washington, Nov. 29, 2010
President Barack Obama delivers a statement to members of the media in the in the Old Executive Office Building, on the White House campus in Washington, Nov. 29, 2010

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President Barack Obama said he will seek a two-year freeze of the salaries of civilian U.S. federal workers, saying the step is necessary to deal with the federal deficit and to control government spending.

The White House estimates the proposed freeze would save $2 billion in the current fiscal year and $28 billion during the next five years, with a savings impact increasing to $60 billion over the next decade.

In announcing the proposed pay freeze, President Obama referenced the $1.3 trillion federal spending deficit he inherited from his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush.

Saying that steps he has taken so far for economic recovery have produced 10 months of private-sector job growth, Obama said more needs to be done. H described the federal civilian pay freeze as one of a series of steps needed to put the United States on a more stable economic course.

"Getting this deficit under control is going to require some broad sacrifice, and that sacrifice must be shared by the employees of the federal government."

Aside from the proposed pay freeze, the clearest message from Mr. Obama was about politics in Washington, and the question of whether he and opposition Republicans can find enough common ground to avoid governmental gridlock.

In mid-term congressional elections this month, the Republican Party won a majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives. On Tuesday, Republican congressional leaders are due to sit down with the president at the White House.

Referring to what he called tough decisions put off for a long time, Obama said political leaders in Washington will have to compromise.

"We face challenges that will require the cooperation of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Everybody is going to have to cooperate. We cannot afford to fall back on to the same old ideologies or the same stale sound bites. We are going to have to budget on some deeply-held positions and compromise for the good of the country."

In Capitol Hill reaction, Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the pay freeze should have been shared between civilian and military personnel. Ohio Representative John Boehner, who will be the new House Speaker in the new Congress convening in January, welcomed the step, saying Republicans also had proposed a net freeze on federal hiring.

Deficit reduction is not the only issue on the table when Obama sits down Tuesday with congressional leaders. He also is seeking Senate ratification of the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia in the face of resistance from at least one Senate Republican. He hopes to accomplish this in the current end-of-year congressional session.

The president said he hopes Tuesday's meeting with Republican leaders will mark what he called a first step toward a new and productive working relationship. It would be unwise to assume, Mr. Obama added, that the main lesson from the mid-term congressional elections is that Americans prefer one way of thinking over another.

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