WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he plans to freeze automatic pay raises for civilian federal employees in 2019, citing the need for government belt-tightening.
In a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Trump said he is zeroing out both across-the-board pay increases as well as locality pay raises that are based on where federal employees live. The scheduled pay raises were set to go into effect in January 2019.
“We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” Trump said in the letter.
In his letter, Trump said federal pay would have automatically risen by 2.1 percent next year.
The freeze affects employees covered by the General Schedule, which is the majority of the federal workforce. Military members are set to receive a 2.6 percent raise in 2019, Federal News Radio reported.
Last year, Trump approved a 1.4 percent pay raise for federal employees. However, in the budget plan he released earlier this year, setting spending priorities for the coming year, Trump indicated he would seek a freeze on federal pay.
Congress could override Trump’s freeze, but there are differing plans in the House in the Senate. A spending plan approved by the Senate backs a 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees, but the House version of the spending bill doesn’t include the measure, Federal News Radio reported.
Members of Congress from the D.C. region assailed Trump’s announcement and vowed to work to block it from going into effect.
“Congress can and must stand up to the President and reject this assault on our federal workers by passing the 1.9 percent pay raise that the Senate approved on Aug. 1,” Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, said in a statement.
Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Virginia Republican, issued a statement calling Trump’s announcement only a “possible elimination” of the federal pay raise and pledging to work with her colleagues to have the pay bump included in the House’s spending bill.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, another Virginia Democrat, said Trump’s move was akin to “trying to balance the budget on the backs of federal workers.” A bill Connolly sponsored, the FAIR Act, would provide a 3 percent pay raise for the federal civilian workforce.
Trump said the pay freeze would not “materially affect” the federal government’s ability to recruit qualified workers. More broadly, the president has signaled his support for moving away from fixed schedule of pay increases and toward performance-based pay.
Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, froze federal pay for three consecutive years, between 2011 and 2013.