Don’t Expect Republicans on the Hill to Back a Federal Pay Freeze; Stage Set for a Government Closure in October
Trump has added another reason he might cause a government shutdown a month from now: no pay raise for federal employees of domestic federal agencies and departments.
Trump notified House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Thursday that he was canceling the pay raise for the majority of federal civilian workers. (There was nothing to indicate that he was also canceling the planned 2.6% increase for the military.)
Congress can, and in my estimation probably will, reject this. The House and Senate will likely put language that mandates the civilian pay raise in the continuing resolution that will be needed by Oct. 1 to keep the government open.
The question then is how will Trump react with a continuing resolution that very openly defies him.
Vetoing the continuing resolution and shutting down the government is a real possibility.
The Senate has already approved a pay raise for federal civilian employees. The House is more than likely to go along with the Senate provision because not doing so would put Republican incumbents from districts with large numbers of federal employees in critical jeopardy of not being re-elected.
Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), who represents Northern Virginia, immediately comes to mind as a GOPer who would be in serious trouble if civilian employees were denied pay raises. Not surprisingly, Comstock issued a statement opposing Trump’s freeze earlier today.
In an election where a Democratic takeover of the House is considered a definite possibility, making Republicans more vulnerable makes absolutely no political sense.
In an election where a Democratic takeover of at least the House is considered a definite possibility, making Comstock and several other Republicans more vulnerable and putting the GOP majority in further doubt makes absolutely no political sense.
There are two reasons Trump would veto the continuing resolution and shut down the government over this issue.
First, the continuing resolution would be abject defiance, something we know Trump doesn’t handle well or rationally.
Second, the pay raise is the kind of emotional issue that will appeal to Trump voters and, given Mueller et. al., Trump is likely to be eager to show his base that he’s more than willing to punish the federal government/deep state for all its sins.
That puts the civilian federal pay raise almost on the same level as the billions of dollars Trump is demanding to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico as a possible reason for a government shutdown this year. They’re both anything-but-substantive issues that Trump can use to remind his voters why they voted for him in the first place.
That means both that there are now two potential shutdown issues and that a Trump-induced government shutdown a month from today is even more likely than it was before.