President Donald Trump said Thursday that civilian employees of the federal government will not receive raises in 2019.
In doing away with the 2.1 percent across-the-board pay increase that was scheduled to take effect in January, Trump said he was working "put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course."
Scrapping the raises will save more than $25 billion, Trump said.
"I have determined that for 2019, both across the board pay increases and locality pay increases will be set at zero," the president said in a letter addressed to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-WI, and released by the White House. "These alternative pay plan decisions will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well qualified Federal workforce."
Congress could still authorize a raise despite Trump's letter. Lawmakers have yet to reach an agreement, and have until the end of the year to do so.
The Trump administration proposed $143.5 billion in cuts to federal employee compensation in May, including substantial decreases in retirement funding. Also that month, Trump signed three executive orders that made it easier to fire civilian employees and put new limits on union activity. A federal judge invalidated many of the provisions in those executive orders on Saturday.
In contrast to civilian employees, troops are due for a 2.6 percent pay increase next year. Trump has touted the military pay bump, which was authorized by a giant $716 billion defense bill he signed earlier this month.
Trump has promised that he would reduce the federal deficit and balance the nation's budget, though his administration's policies have largely done the opposite. The president's tax and spending reforms are slated to add more than $1 trillion to the deficit over ten years, according to government figures. Supporters of the president's tax plan claimed the bill would pay for itself.
The politics of the pay freeze could be dicey. While the president has railed against the Washington "swamp," less than 20 percent of the nation's nearly 2 million civilian full-time federal employees live in the D.C. metropolitan area, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
The move could also further imperil Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-VA., a vulnerable incumbent whose district is home to tens of thousands of government employees. In a statement, Comstock said that that she would attempt to re-instate the pay increase through legislative action.
The government "cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal employees," she said.