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Federal agencies directed to hold off raises for top officials during shutdown

Government shudown enters third week

Federal agencies have been directed to hold off enacting pay raises for top administration officials that were reportedly set to go into effect on Saturday as 800,000 federal workers remained furloughed or were working without pay.

Departments were told in a memo issued Friday from the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management to hold off on enacting the raises during the partial government shutdown.

The raises -- an additional $10,000 a year -- were set to go into effect because a pay freeze for top federal officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and cabinet secretaries, was reportedly due to expire Saturday, January 5. The 115th Congress had included an extension of the pay freeze in bills funding the government, but those bills failed to pass before that Congress expired and the 116th Congress was seated, according to The New York Times

The scheduled raises appeared to be an unintended consequence of the government shutdown, The Associated Press reported. 

The latest guidance on the pay raises was issued Friday in a memo from Margaret Weichert, the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). 

"In the current absence of Congressional guidance," 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," Weichert wrote in the memo.   

Earlier Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called the raises "another unnecessary byproduct of the shutdown" and put the onus on Congress, saying it "can easily take care of this by funding the government and securing our borders." She had said the administration was "exploring options to prevent this from being implemented while some federal workers are furloughed." 

Mr. Trump also told reporters at a press conference Friday that he "might consider" asking cabinet secretaries and other top officials to forgo the raises after he was asked about them. Pence committed to doing so.

Mr. Trump and congressional leaders met on Friday to try to hash out a resolution to the ongoing government shutdown, but came no closer to a deal. Mr. Trump is demanding billions of dollars for his long-promised wall along the southern border, and Democrats are refusing to give him the money. White House and congressional staffers are set to meet again Saturday to continue negotiations.

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