Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Va., takes the oath of office. Taylor is organizing the letter opposing the pay freeze.

Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Va., takes the oath of office. Taylor is organizing the letter opposing the pay freeze. Zach Gibson / AP

House Republicans Organize Letter Asking Trump to Reverse Pay Freeze

Letter has bipartisan support, says raise would be "well deserved."

A group of House Republicans are organizing a letter to President Trump asking him to reverse his decision to freeze federal employees’ pay in 2019.

The letter, which lawmakers will send to the White House on Friday, has bipartisan backing, and was spearheaded by Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Va. It follows a similar letter from a group of House Democrats addressed to congressional leadership, asking for legislative action to ensure at least a 1.9 percent raise for civilian workers.

The bipartisan letter instead asked Trump directly to reverse course. The letter will applaud the president for his efforts to be “fiscally responsible,” but ultimately suggest that feds are “overdue” for a raise. Trump, as is typical when the White House adjusts the automatic raise that would take place annually under a statutory formula, cited the state of the nation’s fiscal health in calling for the freeze.

Providing a pay boost, the bipartisan lawmakers plan to write, will help agencies recruit and retain “a strong federal workforce.”

“Needless to say, it would be a mistake to refuse our federal civilian employees this well-deserved pay increase,” the lawmakers wrote in a draft of the letter provided to Government Executive. “We must show our appreciation for their hard work and that we value their service to our country.”

They added that federal employees “deserve” the raise and urged Trump to “reconsider canceling” it.

As of Thursday, the letter's other signatories were: Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.; David McKinley, R-W.Va.; Barbara Comstock, R-Va.; Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Peter King, R-N.Y.; Tom Cole, R-Okla.; Rob Bishop, R-Utah; and Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla.; and Del. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam. Taylor’s office was still gathering signatures on Thursday. The letter comes after Trump last week formalized a proposal he first made in his budget in February to freeze federal employees’ pay next year.

The Senate has approved an appropriations bill that included a 1.9 percent raise for civilian employees in 2019, though a companion measure in the House did not contain such a provision. The House on Thursday voted to go to a conference committee to resolve the differences in the chambers’ “minibus” spending bills and the Senate is expected to follow suit in the coming days.

A Republican aide said the lawmakers signing the letter were hopeful they could convince Trump to change his mind. The president has in the days following his recent pay freeze memorandum wavered on whether he would actually follow through on the proposal. The aide said that if Trump does not back down, however, the letter’s signatories would pivot to working with appropriators to make the pay increase mandatory.

Many lawmakers have pledged to fight for a raise in the final version of fiscal 2019 appropriations. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., for example, who as ranking member of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee played a fundamental role in including the 1.9 percent raise in the Senate bill, said after Trump formalized his pay freeze proposal last week that he “won’t stop fighting for this much-needed raise in next year’s budget.”

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