Trump moves to halt raises for fed­eral workers

Pres­i­dent says in­crease too costly; Democrats say tax cut to blame.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FRONT PAGE - By Doug Sword CQ-Roll Call

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.

DOUG MILLS/NYT

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump told Congress in his let­ter that can­cel­ing the pay hike is nec­es­sary to deal with the na­tional debt and an­nual deficit.

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