Thanks to the expiration of a provision in a law, some federal officials, including the vice president, will be getting a pay raise unless Congress acts to extend their pay freeze.
The Office of Personnel Management noted the automatic expiration of the pay freeze in a recent memo on the 2019 pay schedules:
Pay Freeze for Certain Senior Political Officials
Section 738 of division E of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (Public Law 115-141), contained a provision that continued the freeze on the payable rates of pay for the Vice President and certain senior political appointees at 2013 levels through calendar year 2018. Unless extended by new legislation, the pay freeze will end on the last day of the last pay period that begins in calendar year 2018 (i.e., January 5, 2019, for those on the standard biweekly payroll cycle). For additional information on the pay freeze for certain senior political officials, see https://chcoc.gov/content/continued-pay-freeze-certain-senior-political-officials-2. We will issue separate guidance regarding whether this pay freeze will be continued or terminated.
That means the pay raise will go into effect tomorrow unless Congress moves to extend the pay freeze for the officials in question.
Vice President Mike Pence’s most recent annual salary was $230,700 per year but is set to increase to $243,500 (a 5.5% increase) thanks to the expiration of this pay freeze. Cabinet secretaries will see their compensation rise from $199,700 to $210,700 per year, also a 5.5% increase.
Update: OPM issued new guidance Friday and noted that Congress has not taken action on this issue, meaning the pay raises are set to take effect. However, OPM said it felt it would not be “prudent” to enact the raises at this time and recommended leaving them frozen at the 2013 levels.
OPM’s new memo stated, in part:
In the current absence of Congressional guidance the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) believes it would be prudent for agencies to continue to pay these senior political officials at the frozen rate until appropriations legislation is enacted that would clarify the status of the freeze. Following Congressional action to provide clarity on this matter, the OPM will put forward new guidance conforming fully to the Congressional action, including any necessary adjustments. This memo supersedes the guidance OPM issued on this topic in CPM 2018-23 on December 28, 2018.
Even though the pay for these positions has been frozen since 2013, the pay raise is not one that is likely to be politically popular, especially since a pay freeze was formalized for federal employees in the midst of an ongoing partial government shutdown that has disrupted their paychecks.
Indeed, the automatic pay raises have been criticized by Democrats, one of whom was Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), the newly-appointed chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
She told the Washington Post, “At a time when more than 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.”
The spending bill that the new House passed yesterday to lift the partial government shutdown included an extension of this pay freeze on the vice president and other cabinet officials, however, that bill is not expected to advance beyond the House without the necessary support from Senate Republicans and the White House.
Pence said Friday that he would not accept the scheduled pay raise in the midst of the shutdown.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, “This is another unnecessary byproduct of the shutdown. The Administration is aware of the issue and we’re exploring options to prevent this from being implemented while some federal workers are furloughed. Congress can easily take care of this by funding the government and securing our borders.”