President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Dec. 28 to freeze the salaries of federal workers in 2019, an order he first announced in August, citing high government costs.
The order stops the automatic 2.1 percent pay increase all workers would have normally received in January 2019 and has no effect on military personnel who have been funded separately. The military will also continue with its 2.6 percent pay increase that came from the defense spending bill.
It comes amid Trump’s partial government shutdown, after lawmakers failed to break an impasse on Trump’s request for the $5 billion in funding for a border wall with Mexico. The president has blamed the Democrats, who will have a house majority in 2019, for showing no signs of wanting to reach an agreement quickly.
Trump has tried to strike a compromise with Democrats—who have refused to support the $5 billion in funding for Trump’s signature campaign promise—with talk of a lowered amount for the wall.
Around 800,000 federal workers, some working without pay and others furloughed, would be affected by the executive order.
Meanwhile, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway condemned top-ranking Democrats, such as House Speaker candidate Nancy Pelosi, for leaving Washington during the partial shutdown to go on vacation instead.
If Democrats and Republicans reopen the government, they could be able to incorporate a pay raise. There has been no indication of this happening any time soon, as Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget and acting White House chief of staff, suggested the shutdown could last into the new Congress.
Earlier this year, the Senate had included a 1.9 percent pay increase for 2019. However, the House version of the bill did not include it.
Trump last year approved a 1.4 percent increase in federal pay and a 2.4 percent increase in military pay.
In the president’s August letter announcing the pay freeze, he argued that “We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases.”