The Senate passed by voice vote legislation that would keep the government open through the holidays and until Feb. 8, 2019, but the status of a 1.9 percent pay increase for federal employees still remains in question.
Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a floor speech earlier in the day that leadership had initially wanted to pass full funding for the remaining government agencies that had yet to receive fiscal year 2019 appropriations, disagreements about border security funding stalled negotiations.
The continuing resolution now moves on to the House and must be passed by both chambers and signed by the president by Dec. 21 to avoid a partial government shutdown. The House is expected to take up the legislation Thursday.
According to Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., without passing the federal pay raise in 2018, Congress has a more complicated job if it decides to pass a retroactive federal pay raise in February. In fact, Congress may not end up passing a pay raise at all if it keeps passing continuing resolutions without amendments.
“One thing is certainly very likely, and that is the president will not initiate the pay raise, he’s made that clear,” said Cardin at a Dec. 19 press call on a potential shutdown.
Congress can pass a continuing resolution with an anomaly, a component of the legislation that funds the government beyond previous levels, to increase federal pay. But Cardin said that it is uncertain what options Congress has in granting a retroactive pay increase, so that feds see their pay adjusted beginning Jan. 1, 2019.
“Our federal workforce protects our nation, ensures the safety of our food and medicine, delivers Social Security and veterans’ benefits, and carries out countless other responsibilities on behalf of our citizens. But President Trump is poised to give them the gift of a pay freeze if Congress fails to act before the end of the year,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., in a statement.
“I was proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this modest cost-of-living adjustment, despite the Trump administration’s constant attack on our civil servants, and I am going to keep fighting until it becomes law. If we can’t get it done as part of this short-term package, it should be the first order of business when we return.”
A spokesperson for Cardin told Federal times that he is committed to working with Van Hollen and other colleagues to pass something early in the new congress.
Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.