The government has been operating under a partial shutdown since December 21st, depriving 800,000 federal employees of their entire paychecks. Meanwhile, hundreds of senior Trump appointees are getting $10,000 raises, the Washington Post reported on Friday.
This was an accident. Maybe. In 2013, Congress passed a law capping the salaries of federal executives. The law has been renewed every year, but it wasn’t in 2018 because of the shutdown. The pay freeze will expire unless action is taken by Saturday. This will not happen, and so starting next week, everyone from cabinet secretaries to Vice President Mike Pence will see bumps in their paychecks. The raises were revealed in documents released by the Office of Personnel Management, which last week advised workers who won’t be seeing paychecks because of the shutdown to do manual labor for their landlords in lieu of paying rent.
The raises are just one of many side effects of Trump’s decision to hold the government hostage over a border wall, and he doesn’t appear to be letting it go anytime soon. His meetings with congressional Democrats have not been productive, as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reminded reporters Friday afternoon.
Schumer, after WH meeting, says Trump told lawmakers he would be happy to keep the government closed for a long time — “months, even years.”
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) January 4, 2019
The president has insisted he will not sign off on legislation that does not include more than $5 billion to fund the border wall, and House Democrats, led by new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), have been adamant that they will not include wall funding in a bill. “A wall is an immorality,” Pelosi told reporters as the House passed a continuing resolution that would have allowed the government to re-open as negotiations continue. “It’s not who we are as a nation. And this is not a wall between Mexico and the United States that the president is creating here. It’s a wall between reality and his constituents.”
Last month, when Republicans still controlled the House, the Senate passed a continuing resolution to keep the government open by a vote of 100-0. Paul Ryan — who *clears throat * is no longer in politics — refused to bring the resolution to a vote in the House, and the government entered a partial shutdown on December 21st. Pelosi’s first act as House Speaker was to pass a similar resolution through the House, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is now refusing to bring it to a vote in the Senate, even though he, and literally every other senator, voted for essentially the same resolution a few weeks ago. “The Senate will not waste its time considering a Democratic bill which cannot pass this chamber and which the president will not sign,” McConnell said on Thursday.
Not all of McConnell’s colleagues agree. “I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said on Thursday. “The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today.” On Friday morning, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) joined Gardner in supporting the Democrats’ resolution to re-open the government. “I’m not saying their whole plan is a valid plan,” she said, according to the Boston Globe. “But I see no reason why the bills that are ready to go and on which we’ve achieved an agreement should be held hostage to this debate over border security.”
Both Gardner and Collins figure to face tough re-election campaigns in increasingly blue states in 2020.
The resolution passed by Democrats on Thursday would not only have re-opened the government, it would have renewed the pay freeze that would prevent the raises from taking effect. Randy Erwin, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, told the Post that McConnell’s refusal to bring the resolution to a vote “certainly smells fishy, just as the federal workforce is being furloughed.” Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) told the paper that “it looks like Trump has protected his own appointees and everyone else gets screwed” while suggesting the president issue an executive order preventing the raises.
But it’s unclear whether the president even knows that hundreds of his top appointees are getting raises while the government is shut down, or if he even cares. The Office of Personnel Management is certainly aware of it, as they discussed ways to remedy the issue — or at least its negative optics — with the Office of Management and Budget on a conference call Monday morning.
“It was definitely a ‘this is not going to look good’ situation,’” one participant told the Post.