Because of a pay freeze that is set to expire during the government shutdown, Cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries, high-ranking administrators, and Vice President Mike Pence are all scheduled to receive raises of $10,000 or more on Saturday, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
Now in the 14th day of the government shutdown, with no end in sight, many federal employees are growing increasingly concerned about finances and budgeting carefully—many are even filing for unemployment benefits to tide them over as they approach their first missed paycheck. Nearly 800,000 workers have gone without pay since the shutdown: About 380,000 have been furloughed, and others have continued to work through the shutdown and will be paid when it ends. And while many will be paid later, custodians, security officers, and other hourly workers paid by private contractors care are not eligible for back pay.
According to the the Washington Post, which first reported on the raises on Friday, officials are worried about the appearance of granting raises to high-paid officials while lower-level federal workers struggle with finances. Pence, for example, will see his pay bump up from more than $230,000 to about $243,000, as indicated by documents from the Office of Personnel Management (Pence told reporters on Friday that he would turn down the raise for as long as the shutdown lasted). Cabinet secretaries will go from more than $199,000 to over $210,000.
When Congress failed to pass a bill funding the federal government in December, the 2013 law capping pay for top officials was not renewed, as it had been each year before. If no emergency action is taken by Saturday, the raises will kick in. But it’s not clear what should be done. The House Democrats have included a continuation of the freeze in their funding bill that passed Thursday, but that bill is not expected to go any further. Congress could also pass a stand-alone measure to retain the freeze, and at least one legislator has suggested the president could issue an executive order canceling the raise. According to a CNN correspondent, the president said he “might” consider killing the raise, but he did not commit to it.