Republicans Claim Deal on Federal Pay Raise, But Democrats Object to Terms

Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., who is in a tight reelection battle, has been pressing Republicans to raise federal worker pay. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., who is in a tight reelection battle, has been pressing Republicans to raise federal worker pay. J.Scott Applewhite/AP

This story has been updated to include additional comments from stakeholders.

Republicans on Capitol Hill reportedly have reached a deal among themselves to include a 1.9 percent pay increase for federal civilian employees in 2019 in a spending bill, but Democrats say they will reject the deal over “partisan” add-ons.

An agreement between House and Senate Republicans and offered to Democratic appropriators would provide a pay increase next year for federal workers, first included in a Senate spending bill, and it would lift a long-running pay freeze on some executives and political appointees.

President Trump has repeatedly recommended a pay freeze for civilian federal employees next year, although he has not indicated that he would reject a spending package that includes a raise.

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“Thanks to [Virginia Republican Rep.] Barbara Comstock’s tireless advocacy, there is an agreement in place on pay raises," said Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga. "This wouldn’t be resolved without her help, or without President Trump’s booming economy.”

The Republican agreement was first reported by The Washington Post, but a Democratic aide told Government Executive that the pay increase is bogged down by multiple “partisan riders.”

“There is not a deal,” the aide said. “House and Senate Republicans have made a joint offer that includes the 1.9 percent pay raise as well as numerous other provisions that are much more partisan. House and Senate Democrats oppose many elements of the Republican proposal, so negotiations will have to continue before a bipartisan agreement is reached.”

In addition to the provision lifting the pay freeze on political appointees, Democrats oppose policy provisions that advance financial deregulation, as well as a Fund for America’s Kids and Grandkids, which would store hundreds of millions of dollars in appropriations for the purposes of debt reduction.

“We’ve saved $585 million to make the initial deposit, and this money is protected from being spent or transferred, and it will only be accessible when we come together and balance our budget,” Graves said, at a conference committee hearing last month.

Democrats have blasted the proposed fund as an unserious effort to bypass last year’s budget deal in a way that targets financial services agencies. In order to approve the deal, Republicans will need bipartisan support, as any spending package requires 60 votes in the Senate.

But a Republican aide said that the GOP is "ceding" the pay raise issue, and that the 1.9 percent pay increase provision will not be contingent on Democrats' acquiescence on other issues in the spending package.

In a statement, National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon described Thursday's developments as "encouraging," but argued lawmakers should pursue pay parity between civilian workers and military personnel, who will receive a 2.6 percent pay raise next year.

"We appreciate the growing bipartisan support for the Senate-approved 1.9 percent increase for federal employees but we also believe in parity with the military, which is due a 2.6 percent increase," Reardon said. "Front line federal employees across the country do valuable work on behalf of the American public and it would be offensive to leave them out of the pay raises now enjoyed by the private sector."

Lawmakers have until Dec. 7 under a continuing resolution to work out spending for agencies that were not included in two minibus appropriations deals that President Trump signed before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Although negotiations are under way, no formal progress is expected until the House returns to Washington after the mid-term elections.

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