Current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), whose district includes a large number of government workers, said that a freeze on federal employees does not solve the spending problem unless it's matched by a pay freeze on some personnel in the military.
"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," Hoyer said.
Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody's Analytics, said the pay freeze is more symbolic than substantive. Given all the other cuts to come, said Zandi, Obama had to cut away at federal salaries.
"We are going to have spending cuts, social security and Medicare will be scaled back, and tax increases," Zandi said. "There is going to be a lot of financial pain and I don't think [Obama] could go to the American people and ask them to suffer all that finical hardship without asking federal employees first to go through that hardship."
This is not the first time President Obama has focused on federal pay to underline a political point. As he noted in Monday's announcement, he froze all pay for his own senior staff on his first day as president. This year, he extended the freeze to senior political appointees and eliminated their bonuses.
The pay freeze will affect more than two million federal civilian workers. Many experts agree that lower-skilled government employees enjoy a pay premium. However, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the mix of jobs held by civilian federal government workers is weighted towards professional jobs. And highly-skilled government employees – such as doctors, scientists and other technical positions –make less than their peers in the private sector. The government is already at something of disadvantage when it comes to attracting star talent in certain industries. The National Federation of Federal Employees said the pay freeze will make the government even less competitve.
"[The policy] could diminish the government's ability to recruit and retain top talent at the federal agencies that protect our borders, care for our veterans, and support our armed forces abroad," the union group said in a statement.
Obama acknowledged the coming recruitment challenges in Monday's proposal, but maintained the sacrifices were necessary.
"In these challenging times we want the best and brightest to join and make a difference," the president said. "But these are also times where all of us are called on to make some sacrifices and I'm asking civil servants to do what they've always done: play their part."
ABC News' Audrey Taylor, Jake Tapper, Sunlen Miller and John Parkinson contributed to this report.