With so many federal workers living in Northern Virginia, it shouldn’t be surprising that people here have been expressing outrage over Donald Trump’s decision to block scheduled pay raises for federal civilian employees. It not only impacts people employed by the government, but local businesses who depend on those customers.
In a letter he sent to Congressional leaders, Trump claims he has the authority to make such decisions during a “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.” But if this is the basis for his decision, how can he justify recently pushing a $1.5 trillion tax cut through Congress that largely benefits billionaires and corporations while this will only save $25 billion?
Members of Congress have been quick to call Trump out on this. Gerry Connolly, for instance, quickly put out a statement highlighting the hypocrisy.
“President Trump is feeling cornered and lashing out by cancelling a modest, planned pay increase for our dedicated federal workforce. His tax bill exploded the deficit, and now he is trying to balance the budget on the backs of federal workers. I will not accept President Trump’s mismanagement of the federal government as fait accompli.”
Rep. Connolly went on to say Trump believes “the federal workforce is just a punching bag” and wants “to hollow out our cancer research centers, public health agencies, and national security staff.” Connolly, on the other hand, remains committed to seeing a 3 percent pay increase for federal employees through passage of the FAIR Act (HR 4775).
Even the Republicans in Congress are going after Trump on the issue. Rep. Barbara Comstock, who has literally voted with Trump 98% of the time, released a letter she sent to the president condemning the move. She highlighted how “we need well paid professionals” to “do the important work of protecting our country and providing for a stronger economy.” She went on to say “we simply cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal employees.”
This is also drastically different than what a lot of state and local governments have been doing recently. Delegate Danica Roem, for example, tweeted about how she proudly voted for giving public sector workers a pay raise here in Virginia.
Unlike the President disrespecting my federal worker constituents, I voted to raise pay for Virginia’s public employees: -3%: teachers & support staff -2%: state & state-supported local employees; -2%: merit raise for state workers w/ 3+ years of service.
Perhaps the best part about Danica’s comments is how that vote received praise from people all across the political spectrum because they realized public employees deserve to be compensated fairly for all their hard work.
Moving forward, the good news is Congress can still override Trump’s decision and the effort appears to have support. The Senate already passed a minibus earlier this month that included a scheduled pay raise, for instance, and people like Comstock and Connolly in the House have come out in favor of pay raises. The struggle will be finding a way to ensure the issue receives attention even after this initial coverage dies down.