Vice President Mike Pence and other top Trump administration officials won’t receive pay increases that were set to automatically trigger due to the government shutdown.
Federal agencies were told to hold off on enacting pay increases on Jan. 4, in a memo from Margaret Weichert, the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
The raises would have been triggered due to a pay freeze for top federal officials expiring because of the shutdown. That freeze was enacted through a law passed by Congress in 2013, reported the Washington Times.
Pence’s annual salary would have risen from $230,700 to $243,500 while the salaries of hundreds of top officials would have gone up by around $10,000.
“In the current absence of Congressional guidance,” OPM “believes 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,” Weichert wrote.
The memo came after White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration was aware of the issue and was “exploring options to prevent this from being implemented while some federal workers are furloughed.”
President Donald Trump had said at a press conference on Friday that he was considering asking top officials, including cabinet secretaries, to forgo the raises. Pence said at the appearance that he wouldn’t accept the raise.
Sanders, in her statement, called the raises “another unnecessary byproduct of the shutdown” and put the onus on Congress, saying it “can easily take care of this by funding the government and securing our borders.”
Trump previously froze pay for all federal workers in 2019 apart from the military.
The pay raise issue arose as Trump, Pence, and Congressional leaders met again on Friday to try to come to an agreement on a budget to end the partial shutdown, which is affecting about 25 percent of the federal government.
Trump has insisted that any budget include funding for a border wall along the southern border, asking for $5 billion. Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have refused to include any funds for the wall in a budget.
The House passed a bill that included the funding in late 2018 but Republicans lost the majority in the House on Jan. 3, as the lawmakers that won elections in the November midterms were sworn into office. Democrats now hold the House while Republicans extended their majority in the Senate from 51-49 to 53-47, making a bipartisan agreement imperative.
The new Democrat-majority House passed two bills late Thursday that included no funding for the border wall but Senate Republicans said they wouldn’t hold a vote since Trump indicated he wouldn’t sign the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also refused to hold a vote on the bill that the Republican-majority House passed in December, since the 60 votes needed in that body couldn’t be guaranteed as no Democrats indicated support.
After a two-hour-plus meeting with congressional leaders on Jan. 4, Trump said that he had appointed a team led by Pence to meet with a Democratic group over the weekend to try to resolve the standoff over the border wall funding.
But he said he needs to get funding for the wall.
“We have to get a structure built,” he said, adding that they are “very firm” on the requested funding number.
“We won’t be opening until it’s solved. It’s a much more dangerous problem,” Trump told reporters, mentioning gangs and terrorists coming through the border. “We won’t be doing pieces, we won’t be doing it in dribs and drabs.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.