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".
In an August 30 letter to congressional leaders, Trump opted not to extend a pay raise to civilian employees, consistent with the White House's fiscal year 2019 budget proposal.
"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", said J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents some 700,000 federal workers.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that $804 billion will be added to the federal budget deficit by the end of this year, $139 billion more than was recorded last year. Workers based in more expensive parts of the country are paid higher salaries to compensate for the higher cost of living. Military personnel, unlike civilian federal employees, are still due for a pay increase valued at 2.6 percent, CNBC reports.
Trump said he was nixing a 2.1 percent across-the-board raise for most workers as well as separate locality pay increases averaging 25.7 percent.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) pointed out the Senate passed this pay raise by a 96 to 2 margin, and noted the Senate "has a long history of supporting the federal work force by providing competitive pay, which attracts and retains talented women and men to" federal service.
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The group is led by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which campaigns for those accused of blasphemy to be put to death. It emerged as the fifth largest party in the election in terms of the number of votes obtained across the country.
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.
Congress does have the option to override Trump's freeze on federal raises.
Trump is not anxious about the effect of freezing federal pay on the government's ability to be successful in "recruiting, retaining and rewarding high-performing Federal employees and those with critical skill sets".
"These numbers are very, very sustainable - this isn't a one-time shot", he said last month after figures showed the USA economy grew at a 4.1% annual rate in the second quarter of the year. In the same month, Trump signed three consecutive orders that made it easier to fire civilian employees. The administration appeared to be dragging its feet this week on complying with the judge's orders, with some agencies telling managers and union officials that the new policies remained in effect until further notice.
"Zero. This seems to be how much respect President Trump has for federal workers", he said in a statement. "Instead, the President ballooned the deficit by trillions of dollars with a tax giveaway primarily benefitting [sic] big business and the wealthiest Americans". However, Trump in May proposed cutting total federal employee compensation by $143.5 billion.