2019 Pay Raise on Life Support

The possibility of a 2019 pay raise for federal employees is possible but increasingly unlikely.

Amidst all of the “ups and downs” regarding a pay raise for federal employees in 2019, here is the latest. It is not good news for those who were hoping to see a larger paycheck next year.

Latest Action in Congress

A continuing resolution legislative package has been approved by the Senate and sent to the House. The proposal, which has not been approved by the House as of this writing, does not contain language approving a pay raise.

Update: The House passed a continuing resolution Thursday evening that includes $5 billion in funding for a border wall. However, it makes no mention of a pay raise for federal employees and also “continues all policy and funding provisions included in the current CR (H.J. Res. 143).”

For those who have paid close attention to this issue, the appropriations for 2019 contained wording to approve a pay raise for federal employees in the Senate version. The House version of the appropriations bill did not provide for a pay raise.

In the appropriations version originally approved by the Senate, a pay raise would have become a reality if the House approved. Now that the House bill that has been sent to the Senate (a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown) does not contain approval of a pay raise, a logical conclusion is the possibility of Congress approving a 2019 pay raise has been significantly reduced.

What Happens Next?

President Trump has recommended no pay raise for the federal workforce on the General Schedule in 2019. Congress can override that if it wishes to do so.

At the moment, Congress does not appear ready to override the president on this issue for next year.

A bill in the House will probably be was passed in short order. It provides funding for a border wall but does not provide for a federal employee pay raise. The bill will go back to the Senate. It is unlikely to pass. Democrats are opposed to supporting a bill providing partial funding for a border wall. Whether it eventually surfaces in subsequent legislation remains to be seen. But, at this point, a government shutdown appears to be a strong possibility.

A final appropriations bill is likely to be passed in 2019. The continuing resolution passed in the Senate would have expired on February 8, 2019. Will Congress approve a retroactive pay raise for 2019 when the final appropriations bill is passed? That could probably be done but don’t count on it.


The possibility of a 2019 pay raise is not yet dead. It is on life support and increasingly unlikely.

For those who may be wondering, none of this impacts the COLA that will go into effect in January for Social Security recipients or federal employees who have retired.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47