The politics of the pay freeze could be dicey.
Trump said both increases should no longer happen. "Across-the-board pay increases and locality pay increases, in particular, have long-term fixed costs, yet fail to address existing pay disparities or target mission critical recruitment and retention goals", Trump said in his letter to Congress Thursday. Federal News Radio reports that a spending plan approved by the Senate includes a 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees while the House's own version of the bill does not include such measures.
Trump's 2019 budget proposal sought to freeze federal pay, but the Senate Appropriations Committee included a pay bump in its spending plans for 2019. It is worth noting that the Senate spending plan did receive some opposition from the White House, as Trump has recommended freezing federal salary despite increasing pay by 1.4 percent past year, according to Washington's Top News. "In light of our Nation's fiscal situation, Federal employee pay must be performance-based, and aligned strategically toward recruiting, retaining, and rewarding high-performing Federal employees and those with critical skill sets", Trump said.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who represents many federal workers, blamed what he said was Trump's mismanagement of federal government.
Those increases would come on top of a 2.1 percent across-the-board increase for most civilian employees. But he did not say whether the locality adjustments already in place would remain in effect and the White House did not immediately clarify.
Under the law, the 2.1 percent raise takes effect automatically unless the president and Congress act to change it. Congress is now debating a proposal for a slightly lower, 1.9 percent across-the-board raise to be included in a funding bill that would require Trump's signature to keep most government functions operating past September.
Congress can override the president's pay freeze through legislation. The president last year signed a package of tax cuts that is forecast to expand the deficit by about $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
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. Trump also stated the pay increase would amount to over $25 billion, which he called "inappropriate".
"These numbers are very, very sustainable - this isn't a one-time shot", he said last month after figures showed the United States economy grew at a 4.1% annual rate in the second quarter of the year. Congress will ultimately decide whether federal workers get a raise. Trump signed executive orders in May that made it easier to fire federal employees and placed limits on public-sector unions. 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.