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Trump taking 'hard look' at pay-freeze plan for federal workers following pushback

Trump taking 'hard look' at pay-freeze plan for federal workers following pushback
Trump taking 'hard look' at pay-freeze plan for federal workers following pushback

President Trump's proposal to halt pay raises for federal workers drew pushback from Virginia Republicans Corey Stewart, left, a U.S. Senate candidate, and U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, who is up for reelection.

President Trump on Saturday evening appeared to signal that he may be rethinking a plan he announced last week to cancel a proposed 2.1 percent pay raise for federal workers.

The president retweeted a Twitter message posted earlier Saturday by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Corey Stewart of Virginia, in which Stewart wrote that federal workers had endured "8 years of hell under Obama, with several rounds of pay freezes and benefit cuts."

Trump "can fix this, and I trust that he will," Stewart wrote.

Just one day earlier, Stewart -- typically a staunch Trump supporter -- had emailed a statement criticizing the pay-freeze plan that Trump disclosed Thursday.

"Federal workers endured 8 years of hell under Obama, with several rounds of pay freezes and benefit cuts ... [President Trump] can fix this, and I trust that he will."- Corey Stewart, Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Virginia

“I almost never differ with President Trump, but in this case I do,” Stewart said in the statement, according to the Washington Post.

“Federal employees in Virginia wake up early, face punishing traffic and work hard to serve their nation and support their families,” the statement continued. “These workers need and deserve a pay raise.”

Another Virginia Republican, U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, also spoke out against Trump's plan.

"We cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal employees and I will work with my House and Senate colleagues to keep the pay increase in our appropriations measures that we vote on in September,” Comstock said last week, according to the Hill.

"We cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal employees and I will work with my House and Senate colleagues to keep the pay increase in our appropriations measures that we vote on in September.”- U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va.

The Democratic National Committee also derided Trump’s proposed pay freeze as “another slap in the face to American workers.”

At a Friday appearance in North Carolina, it appeared that Trump may have given the comments some consideration.

“I’m going to be doing a little work over the [Labor Day] weekend,” Trump said, according to a White House transcript cited by the Hill. “I’m going to be studying, you know, the federal workers in Washington that you’ve been reading so much about. People don’t want to give them any increase. They haven’t had one in a long time.

“I’m going to be doing a little work over the [Labor Day] weekend. I’m going to be studying, you know, the federal workers in Washington that you’ve been reading so much about. People don’t want to give them any increase. They haven’t had one in a long time."- President Trump

"I said, I’m going to study that over the weekend. It’s a good time to study it -- Labor Day. Let’s see how they do next week. But a lot of people were against it. I’m going to take a good hard look over the weekend." 

In a letter Thursday to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate president pro tempore Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Trump had said that current agency budgets could not sustain additional pay for federal employees.

“We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course,” Trump wrote, explaining his opposition to raising salaries.

“[B]oth across-the-board pay increases and locality pay increases will be set at zero,” for 2019, the president wrote. He added that “Federal employee pay must be performance-based, and aligned strategically toward recruiting, retaining, and rewarding high-performing Federal employees and those with critical skill sets.”  

But by Saturday it seemed the president may soon alter the plan he proposed Thursday.

Stewart on Nov. 6 is looking to defeat incumbent U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat who was Hillary Clinton's running mate in the 2016 presidential election. But Kaine has a 23-point lead in a Virginia Commonwealth University poll, the Hill reported.

Comstock, meanwhile, is facing a tough challenge from state Sen. Jennifer Wexton, a Loudon County Democrat, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.

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