Thursday, January 05, 2017

House Republicans revive obscure rule that allows them to slash the pay of individual federal workers to $1

I will be surprised if it is not used against government employees whose research results they don't like, like climate disruption.

By Jenna Portnoy and Lisa Rein January 5, 2017

House Republicans this week reinstated an arcane procedural rule that enables lawmakers to reach deep into the budget and slash the pay of an individual federal worker — down to $1 — a move that threatens to upend the 130-year-old civil service.

The Holman Rule, named after an Indiana congressman who devised it in 1876, empowers any member of Congress to propose amending an appropriations bill to single out a government employee or cut a specific program.
inRead invented by Teads

The use of the rule would not be simple; a majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment. At the same time, opponents and supporters agree that the work of 2.1 million civil servants, designed to be insulated from politics, is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.

The revival of the Holman Rule was the brainchild of Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), who is intent on increasing the powers of individual members of Congress to reassign workers as policy demands.


As a concession to Republicans who oppose the rule, leaders designed it to expire in one year unless lawmakers vote to keep it in place.


The rule changes the process of passing spending bills by allowing any rank-and-file House member to propose an amendment that would cut a specific federal program or the jobs of specific federal employees, by slashing their salaries or eliminating their positions altogether.

Before the change, an agency’s budget could be cut broadly, but a specific program, employee or groups of employees could not be targeted because of civil service protections.


Republicans and Trump advisers have been quietly drawing up plans since the election to erode some of the job protections and benefits that federal workers have received for a generation, starting with a hiring freeze Trump has pledged to put in place in his first 100 days in office.

Those plans include an end to automatic raises, a green light to fire poor performers, less generous pensions and a ban on union business on the government’s dime.


In light of recent inquiries by the Trump transition team about a list of Energy Department scientists who have worked on climate change, advocates for federal workers say they worry that bureaucrats could be targeted for political reasons.


Rep. Barbara Comstock, the only Republican member of Congress from Northern Virginia, voted for an amendment sponsored by Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah) to strip the rule from the package.

The rule “diminishes the roles of the authorizing committees in the House, and will make it more difficult to pass appropriations bills in the new Congress,” Comstock’s spokesman, Jeff Marschner, said in a statement.

However, when the rules package, including the Holman measure, came to the floor Tuesday, she voted for it, as did all but three Republicans. All the Democrats voted no.

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