Amid backlash, Trump administration seeks to halt raises for top officials

Washington Post

Federal agencies have been told to suspend pay raises for top Trump administration officials after an uproar from critics who said it was unseemly to reward top political appointees while hundreds of thousands of workers are going without pay during the partial government shutdown.

The raises had been set to go into effect on Sunday, after a long-standing pay freeze for senior officials lapsed.

The turnabout on the pay hike came late Friday in a memo from Margaret Weichert, the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management. The pay freeze for senior officials, she said, should be extended.

"[It] would be prudent for agencies to continue to pay these senior political officials at the frozen rate," Weichert wrote in a memo to the heads of executive departments and agencies.

The Weichert memo followed a Washington Post story on Friday afternoon reporting that scores of senior Trump political appointees were poised to receive annual raises of about $10,000 a year.

Vice President Mike Pence's pay was scheduled to rise from $230,700 to $243,500. Cabinet secretaries were entitled to a jump in annual salary from $199,700 to $210,700. Deputy secretaries were entitled to a raise from $179,700 to $189,600. Others affected are under secretaries, deputy directors and other top administrators.

"It looks like Trump has protected his own appointees, and everyone else gets screwed," said Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., whose northern Virginia district has 77,000 federal workers.

The pending raises were a consequence of the budget impasse and government shutdown: When the budget deal lapsed, so did an existing pay freeze for senior federal officials. The pay freeze had been enacted by Congress in 2013 for top executives and renewed each year since then. It officially ran out on Saturday.

"Unless extended by new legislation, the pay freeze will end," Weichert wrote to department and agency heads on Dec. 28.

Without legislation, the pay freeze was set to expire and pay was set to jump automatically. But as furor arose over the pending pay raises, Weichert issued new guidance late Friday night, telling federal departments and agencies to hold off on any raises for the top officials "until appropriations legislation is enacted that would clarify the status of the freeze."

Managing pay freezes and pay increases may be difficult, anyway, because so many are not working, federal personnel executives said.

First published in The Washington Post

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