Nearly 200 members of Congress have joined together to denounce President Trump’s decision to freeze pay for federal employees next year.
In a series of letters sent to either Trump or congressional leadership, the lawmakers explained how freezing the pay will hurt the federal workforce and national progress. They urged passage of a minimum 1.9% pay adjustment for federal employees that is already included in the bipartisan FY2019 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill passed by the Senate.
“The federal government has serious business to conduct, and we must block the President’s indefensible attacks on the federal workforce that we count on every day,” said at least 161 House representatives in a letter spearheaded by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland to House and Senate leadership. “It is plainly wrong to tell millions of our fellow Americans that we can afford lavish tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans but not what amounts to a cost-of-living adjustment for the civil servants who keep the government working. We cannot continue to demoralize them and denigrate their service while expecting national progress.”
“It is beyond cynical that the president would cite economic and fiscal concerns to justify his decision to cancel a pay adjustment for middle class workers while he tweets constantly about economic gains and touts a tax bill that exploded the deficit by $1.5 trillion,” eight lawmakers from the D.C. area said in a strongly-worded letter to House and Senate leaders. “The American people want a federal government that keeps them safe and reliably delivers vital services, such as medical research, national security operations, and air and food safety.”
Another group of 23 lawmakers are especially concerned about federal employees who perform security-related work, including those at the Defense Department, Homeland Security, State, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“We often look to these federal employees to be our first line of defense for keeping Americans safe at home and abroad and to secure our borders. These individuals often find themselves in precarious situations, putting their lives and safety on the line in service to our country,” they wrote in a letter spearheaded by Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia to Trump.
Rep. Michael Turner of Ohio and Rep. Barbara Comstock also sent separate letters to Trump and congressional leadership.
Trump recently cancelled a statutorily-set 2.1% raise and locality raises for civilian employees in 2019. The lawmakers said the Trump administration must end these irrational cuts to the pay and benefits of federal employees and retirees.
The growing opposition to the pay freeze comes at a critical moment when the House and Senate need to come together to iron out their differences.
The Senate recently approved a 1.9% raise for feds as part of its 2019 financial services appropriations bill. The House version, however, is silent on the issue. Absent action from Congress, federal workers would be denied any pay adjustment in January under an alternative pay plan President Trump submitted to Congress on Aug. 30.
Congress must do the right thing
Federal employees have had their pay and benefits cut by over $200 billion since 2011, and they are earning nearly 5% less today than they did at the start of the decade.
Federal employees are encouraged that the administration’s proposed pay freeze was immediately met with opposition from many in Congress. Our calls and visits to explain the real situation across the country have paid off.
“President Trump’s claim that the federal government cannot afford to provide the workforce with a modest pay adjustment next year after signing a $1.5 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest individuals and corporations is ridiculous on its face and insulting to every employee who has taken an oath to serve this country,” AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. said.