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

Vice President Mike Pence with acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney in December

Vice President Mike Pence with acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney in December. Associated Press J. Scott Applewhite

The Office of Personnel Management reportedly stated that "it would be prudent for agencies to continue to pay these senior political officials at the frozen rate until appropriations legislation is enacted that would clarify the status of the freeze".

When Congress failed to fund the government on December 21, however, kicking off the partial government shutdown, they also failed to renew the pay freeze holding back the raises, the Post said Friday. Congress could also pass a stand-alone measure to retain the freeze, and at least one legislator has suggested the president could issue an executive order canceling the raise. Cabinet secretaries will go from more than $199,000 to over $210,000.

While as many as 800,000 federal workers have gone without pay for two weeks - and counting - Vice President Mike Pence and other officials can expect to see a boost to their income in their next paycheck. Deputy secretaries were entitled to a raise from $179,700 to $189,600.

The Democrat-led House included a continuation of the executive pay freeze in a bill the chamber passed late Thursday to reopen parts of the government without the funding for a border wall Trump wants. Others affected include deputy secretaries, undersecretaries and deputy directors.

If Congress does not take action by January 5, hundreds of senior officials including Cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries, top administrators will receive the unpaid raises that have accumulated over the past five years. An administration official later said Pence's staff believes he has to accept the raise during the shutdown and pay taxes on it, but will reimburse the Treasury or donate the pay to charity.

Meanwhile, almost 800,000 federal employees are in unpaid limbo, about 380,000 of them having been furloughed, as others continue to work without pay.

The White House and a spokesperson for the vice president did not respond to requests for comment from the Post.

Departments were told in a memo issued Friday from the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management to hold off on enacting the raises during the partial government shutdown.

The raises would cost taxpayers US$300 million over 10 years, according to the Senior Executives Association, which represents the government's approximately 7,000 highest-paid career officials. The pay freeze for senior officials, she said, should be extended.

Mr Trump said he will not sign the bill until he gets the money for the wall. The raises will occur because that cap will expire without legislative action by Saturday, allowing raises that have accumulated over those years but never took effect to kick in, starting with paychecks issued next week.

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