Capping off a tumultuous week in a continuing confrontation with federal workers, President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he was invoking emergency authority to cancel pay increases scheduled for next year.
Congress has the power to override the move, and unions representing government workers called on lawmakers to do so.
In a letter to congressional leaders, Trump said the government would forgo a 2.1 percent pay increase for federal workers due Jan. 1 and specified that there would be no across-the-board increase for 2019. The letter did not estimate the overall savings, though it said $25 billion would be saved in a related move canceling raises that are based on the workers’ location.
“We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” the president wrote.
The president proposed a pay freeze in the budget he sent to Congress in February, two months after he signed a $1.5 trillion tax cut that is expected to balloon the federal deficit.
The latest move to block a pay increase, just before the Labor Day weekend, came on the heels of a legal setback to the administration’s attempts to peel back the labor protections of civil servants.
Last week, a federal judge struck down key provisions of three executive orders the president had signed in May making it easier to fire federal workers and limiting the power of their unions.
Many legal experts were puzzled because the orders were supposed to apply immediately.
But while saying it was still considering further steps in the case, the administration acknowledged at least a temporary setback Wednesday when the Office of Personnel Management put out an updated guidance that rescinded the portions of its earlier instructions the judge had struck down.
Union officials in at least one agency, the Social Security Administration, exulted as they were told they would be allowed back into offices that managers had evicted them from when the executive orders took effect this summer.