Mark Tenally / AP

What Needs to Happen for Civilians to Get a 2020 Pay Raise

Trump is likely to announce by the end of August his intent to institute a pay freeze, and Congress would need to override him.

Although officials in recent weeks have made progress in the appropriations process, agreeing to a budget deal that lifts spending caps and raises the debt ceiling, it remains unclear whether federal workers will see their salaries increase next year.

So far this year, the House has passed an appropriations bill that would grant an average 3.1% pay raise—a 2.6% across the board increase and an average 0.5% increase in locality pay—to federal civilian employees in 2020. That amount would signal parity with the raise that military service members are slated to receive under President Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget proposal and a separate appropriations package approved by the House.

However, the Republican-controlled Senate has not yet published any of its own appropriations bills. It is expected that Senate appropriators will move quickly once lawmakers return to Washington after the August recess. If senators end up endorsing a pay freeze, as proposed in Trump’s budget plan, or propose a raise smaller than 3.1%, lawmakers will have to work out their differences in conference committee.

In the meantime, the White House is expected to make at least one more push to prevent a pay raise later this month.

President Trump is required to issue an alternative pay plan by the end of August, or else sizeable automatic pay increases, particularly in terms of locality pay, take effect as part of the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act. Trump proposed a civilian pay freeze as part of his 2020 budget and observers expect him to stick with that proposal in his alternative pay plan, similar to last year.

If Congress ultimately agrees on a pay raise, that would override Trump's alternative pay plan. The president will be required to issue an executive order finalizing pay rates before the end of December.