Trump lavishes praises on federal workers in year-end message

After proposing two consecutive budgets which included a pay freeze for federal workers, President Donald Trump publicly proclaimed his strong support for federal government employees in a year-end letter, trumpeting his approval of the biggest pay raise for federal employees in a decade and the addition of a new family leave benefit backed by his daughter, Ivanka.

“In 2020, most Federal Employees will see their PAY INCREASE by an average of 3.1 percent - the largest raise in more than 10 years," the President wrote in a letter to "Our Incredible Federal Workforce."

Mr. Trump also gave a big mention to a new benefit given to federal workers as part of a major defense policy bill he signed into law last week.

"I am proud to report that after decades of empty promises and inaction, the legislation I have signed into law provides 12 WEEKS OF PAID PARENTAL LEAVE FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES," the President wrote.

But while the President took credit for the better pay and benefits for federal workers, it was a marked departure from earlier in his administration.

In both his 2018 and 2019 budgets, the President had tried to block any increase in the pay of federal workers, also backing a plan to make benefits for federal workers more like those in the private workforce.

"Across the board pay increases have long-term fixed costs, yet fail to address existing pay disparities, or target mission critical recruitment and retention goals," the President's 2019 budget stated.

"This Administration believes in pay for performance," that budget read.

There was also a blunt message about benefits for federal workers - that they were doing well enough.

"Federal employee sick and annual leave benefits are also disproportionate to the private sector," the President's 2019 budget bluntly stated.

But the President switched gears on both the pay raise, and a plan to provide up to 12 weeks of paid family leave, which had been backed by his daughter Ivanka.

The President's sudden switch - from repeatedly opposing any pay increase, to being a champion of federal workers - drew scorn from some in the federal workforce who don't support Mr. Trump.

"We all laughed at this letter, considering how he and his administration has vilified the civil service in general," one federal worker told me.

Another federal employee said it was proof that the President was not a Republican.

"He's like Bernie freaking Sanders," this Executive Branch employee said, shaking his head about the President's support for more pay and benefits. "Who's going to pay for this?"

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