Trump moves to halt raises for federal workers
President says increase too costly; Democrats say tax cut to blame.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signaled his intent to rescind a scheduled pay increase for federal workers, informing Congress on Thursday that federal law allowed him to do so in the event of a “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.”
The move drew a quick response from D.C.-area Congress members and is almost certain to draw criticism from the Senate, which included a 1.9 percent pay raise in its financial services spending bill. That bill was part of a four-bill, $154 billion package that passed the Senate 92-6 earlier this month.
The Senate Appropriations Committee emphatically beat back an amendment to strike the pay raise during a markup in June. The vote was 29-2 to keep the pay raise in the bill.
Sen. Benjamin Cardin, a Maryland Democrat representing many of the federal workers living in the D.C. area, quickly criticized the move.
“Zero. This seems to be how much respect President Trump has for federal workers,” Cardin
said in a release.
“It is outrageous and hypocritical that after spending billions of taxpayer dollars on unnecessary tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations ... that suddenly the White House finds that there is zero money left to pay a minimal cost-of-living adjustment,” Cardin’s statement said.
The pay freeze was also criticized by Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va.: “President Trump is feeling cornered and lashing out by canceling a modest, planned pay increase for our dedicated federal workforce. His tax bill exploded the deficit, and now he is trying to balance the budget on the backs of federal workers.”
Trump explained the move in terms of the national debt, now more than $21 trillion, and the annual deficit, expected to be $804 billion in fiscal 2018.
Besides an across-theboard pay increase of 2.1 percent scheduled to go into effect in January 2019, Trump noted that locality pay increases taking place in high cost-of-living areas would amount to $25 billion.
“We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” Trump wrote in his letter to Congress.
“Accordingly, I have determined that it is appropriate to exercise my authority to set alternative acrossthe-board and locality pay adjustments for 2019 ... Specifically, I have determined that for 2019, both acrossthe-board pay increases and locality pay increases will be set at zero.”
A similar pay increase is not in the House Financial Services Appropriations bill. Democrats fumed over that bill not including a long-standing pay freeze for the vice president and top administration officials. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, ranking member of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, complained that the bill would remove the pay freeze for “one of the wealthiest Cabinets we’ve ever seen.”
Meanwhile, the largest union representing government workers is rejecting the move to eliminate the pay increase for fiscal 2019 and calling for Congress to follow the Senate’s lead.
“President Trump’s plan to freeze wages for these patriotic workers next year ignores the fact that they are worse off today financially than they were at the start of the decade,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said in a statement.
AFGE wants Congress to move forward with the 1.9 percent pay increase that has already passed the Senate in the fiscal 2019 Financial Services spending bill.
President Donald Trump told Congress in his letter that canceling the pay hike is necessary to deal with the national debt and annual deficit.