The idea was first proposed months ago by House Republicans, as Politico notes, but it apparently took an electoral "shellacking" to get the president on board. Congressional Democrats are still hesitant.
"I am encouraged by President Obama's proposal to freeze non-military federal pay for the next two years. This past May, House Republicans, prompted by YouCut voters, offered the very same spending-cut proposal on the floor of the House," [House GOP Whip Eric] Cantor said in a statement to POLITICO.
In a broader sense, the president's embrace of a GOP policy that goes straight to the ideological divide between the parties could be an early sign of White House efforts to move toward the political center in advance of the 2012 election.
It certainly creates a fissure between the president and his own party's union contingent — though early response from Democratic officials in Congress carried a tone of disappointment rather than outrage.
"While I appreciate that the president reduced the length of his proposed pay freeze from three to two years, it would have produced significantly more savings had that sacrifice been shared between Federal civilian and military personnel—with a strong exception for the members of our military and civilian employees risking their lives on our behalf in Afghanistan, Iraq, and anywhere else they are serving in harm's way," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who represents many federal military and civilian workers in the Washington suburbs and Southern Maryland.
Politico also notes that the $2 billion the pay freeze will save is less than 0.2 percent of the federal budget deficit. Is Obama just trying to lock in the astronomical pay federal workers already recieve (in comparison to their private sector couterparts) while appearing bi-partisan, or has he learned his lesson from the midertms?
*****UPDATE: Ed Morrissey has this to say on the move:
After all the speculation, it’s certainly tempting to see a trend towards triangulation in a single and decidedly minor data point. When Obama takes a serious political risk to shrink government and the regulatory regime, then we can talk about Clintonian triangulation strategies. The pay freeze is nothing more than public relations.