In the midst of a partial government shutdown that has left thousands of federal employees without pay, top Trump administration officials ― including Vice President Mike Pence ― may be cashing in on substantial salary raises.
The raises, first reported by The Washington Post, could go into effect as early as Saturday and amount to as much as $10,000 per eligible official.
Salaries for hundreds of top government executives have been frozen since 2013, when Congress enacted a pay freeze amid debate surrounding the fiscal cliff bill.
The pay freeze lapsed last month after lawmakers failed to reach a consensus on spending bills for multiple federal agencies. Unless legislators take action by Saturday, the Post reported, the freeze is likely to expire and government executives like Pence could begin receiving raises that would have accumulated due to annual cost-of-living adjustments.
The raises may be an intended outcome of the shutdown, as Republicans in November were attempting to tie a pay increase for civilian federal employees to a lift on the pay freeze for top government executives.
President Donald Trump told lawmakers in August he wanted to scrap the annual pay raise for civilian federal employees, arguing the nation’s budget couldn’t finance it.
Federal workers were poised to receive a 2.1 percent pay increase in January, along with an annual “locality pay increase.”
“We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” Trump wrote in a letter to House and Senate leaders.
Trump in late December went forward on the pay freeze for federal workers, while the government shutdown was in effect.
With the pay cap lifted, Cabinet secretaries could be eligible for an annual salary bump from $199,700 to $210,700, the Post reported. Salaries for deputy secretaries could jump from $179,700 to $189,600. Pence’s salary could rise from $230,700 to $243,500.
The raises could cost $300 million in taxpayer money over the course of 10 years, the Senior Executives Association told the Post.
Roughly 400,000 federal workers have been furloughed since parts of the government shut down last month. Another 400,000 have been forced to work without pay. Democrats quickly passed legislation to reopen the closed government agencies after taking back control of the House on Thursday. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed to block the bill, and Trump said he would veto it.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House committee responsible for drafting annual spending bills, said it was “outrageous” that top Trump administration officials could take home raises while other federal employees go without pay.
“At a time when 800,000 federal employees aren’t getting paid, it is absolutely outrageous that the Trump administration would even consider taking advantage of the shutdown to dole out huge raises to the Vice President and its political appointees,” Lowey said in a comment to HuffPost.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), whose attempt to maintain the pay freeze for top government executives was voted down by House Republicans in June, condemned the potential raises.
“Donald Trump has a long history of shortchanging workers,” McCollum said in a comment to HuffPost. “While the government is shut down and federal employees are going without pay, he’s doling out pay raises to his senior political appointees. I find this outrageous. The president must rescind this action, or Congress must work to prohibit it.”
The White House did not immediately offer comment on the potential raises. The government’s Office of Personnel Management and Office of Management and Budget also did not respond to requests for comment.
Trump said during remarks in the White House Rose Garden on Friday he was considering not granting the raises to cabinet members.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that the administration was “aware of the issue” and was “exploring options to prevent this from being implemented while some federal workers are furloughed.”
Jacqueline Simon, the policy director for the American Federation of Government Employees, said no federal workers of any rank should be subjected to pay caps.
“We think it is a good thing salaries for top executives and political appointees will no longer be frozen, but we would expect the administration to abide by the ‘officers eat last’ principle and make sure that rank and file federal employees receive a pay adjustment first,” Simon said in a emailed comment to HuffPost.
She added: “If pay freezes are wrong for those at the top, then surely they are wrong for those on the front lines, and we urge the President to make sure that everybody gets an adjustment so they can keep up with the cost of living.”
This has been updated to include comment from McCollum and Sanders.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated that Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) is the ranking Democrat on the House committee responsible for drafting annual spending bills. In fact, she chairs the committee.
HuffPost readers: Are you affected by the government shutdown? Email us about it. If you’re willing to be interviewed, please provide a phone number.