Democrat Peter Joffrion and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks tangle over federal worker pay raises

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Federal civilian workers may get a 1.9 percent pay increase in 2019, or maybe not.

President Trump has signaled he wants to freeze those raises next year, but he’s wavered on the issue.

There are about 40,000 federal workers in the Huntsville metro area, and the pay raises have become an issue on the campaign trail.

Democrat Peter Joffrion is hoping to unseat four-term incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks. Joffrion says he flatly opposes a pay freeze.

“It’s not a good idea. Redstone Arsenal is critical to our national security interests and defense,” Joffrion said. “And to slap down a pay increase at this time, for really, almost 40,000 workers across the district, is a slap in the face to them.”

Brooks said federal worker pay should be adjusted annually for inflation and he doesn’t want federal employees penalized due to federal deficit spending.

The campaign rhetoric has heated up. Joffrion says Brooks should be doing more for federal workers.

“Now Mo flaps his gums about being for national defense, but he won’t fight for a pay increase for the Redstone workers who have earned it,” Joffrion said. "And I will."

The Brooks campaign responded, saying Joffrion is trying to mislead the public.

“Contrary to Socialist Joffrion's misrepresentation, Congressman Mo Brooks is one of 24 Congressmen who joined together to send President Trump a formal, bipartisan letter that states to President Trump, in part:

“'We urge you to reconsider canceling the federal civilian employee (Cost of Living Adjustment) pay raise set to go into effect January 2019.  Our federal civilian workforce deserves this (Cost of Living Adjustment) pay raise.  Thank you for your thoughtful consideration on this matter.'"

Brooks said he is hopeful President Trump will continue to reconsider his call for a pay freeze.

“If President Trump does reconsider, then this issue is behind us,” Brooks said, citing a letter he’s sent constituents. “If President Trump does not reconsider, then I am confident there will be an effort in Congress to reinstate these cost-of-living increases.”

Brooks said he intends to vote for any standalone bill that reaches the House floor that “prevents federal civilian employee compensation from being eroded by the inflationary effects of federal government irresponsibility.”

He also expressed some concern about a bill that contains other issues.

“Of course, if there is a bill that lumps hundreds or thousands of other issues into one bill, then the good and bad of all of those other provisions must be weighed before deciding how to vote,” he said.

Joffrion said given the size of the federal tax cuts measure, President Trump’s budget arguments against the raise don’t add up. And he said the local federal workforce earned a raise.

“They are some of the most educated and most qualified workers in the world,” he said. “We have the best military in the world, the best defense capabilities and a lot of that presence is right here in Huntsville and Madison County in the North Alabama area."

“These are high-quality workers and they deserve a pay raise.”

The measure is currently under consideration as part of a broader spending package that is currently being considered by a U.S. House-Senate conference committee.