With shutdown talks at an impasse, the White House finalized plans to freeze federal pay at 2018 levels.
President Donald Trump ordered federal pay to be frozen at 2018 levels in an executive order released Dec. 28. The news, which was not unexpected, comes amid an ongoing partial government shutdown in which about 800,000 employees across nine cabinet departments and numerous other agencies are furloughed or working without pay.
The move was signaled in an Aug. 30 letter to congressional leaders announcing plans to prevent a 2.1 percent pay increase in the general schedule and certain locality pay increases from taking effect. The details are spelled out in a Dec. 28 memo from Margaret Weichert, acting director of the Office of Personnel Management.
Congress could still give feds a pay raise. The Senate passed a Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill that included a 1.9 percent pay raise for civilian federal employees – a provision that is highly likely to be picked up in any measure passed by the Democratic House of Representatives taking over later this week.
The question is whether House Democrats and Senate Republicans can come up with a package of funding bills that cover the departments currently shuttered that Trump will sign. So far, the president shows no signs of backing off demands for some funding for the controversial wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump's budget director and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters Dec. 28 that the administration lowered its demand for $5 billion in wall funding, but didn't say by how much. According to Mulvaney, House Democrats didn't move from their offer of $1.3 billion for fencing improvement and border infrastructure.
"So the discussions have broken down," Mulvaney said according to a transcript of the press interview. "We do expect this to go on for a while. We do expect to manage it."
Mulvaney also sought to explain a tweet from Trump stating that "most of the people not getting paid are Democrats."
"I think he was trying to point out a political reality which is let's face it Northern Virginia, Southern Maryland, D.C. are heavily Democrat areas," Mulvaney said. "Many of the government workers live in these heavily Democrat areas."
Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) confirmed on "Face the Nation" on Dec. 31 that talks are "at a standoff," and said the shutdown "could last a long, long time."
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