Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–January 5, 2016
Top Republicans think this’ll be fun—wheee!
Not only have House Republicans empowered congressional staffers to question federal workers under oath, they’ve revived an arcane rule that will allow them to cut a federal employee’s salary down to $1, or even a group of federal employees who work on a particular program. Seriously, no good can come of this—they are greasing the skids for both intimidating any single individual who causes them problems and cutting any federal programs they don’t like for any reason. The Washington Post writes:
The Holman Rule, named after an Indiana congressman who devised it in 1876, empowers any member of Congress to offer an amendment to an appropriations bill that targets a specific government employee or program.
A majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment, but opponents and supporters agree that it puts agencies and the public on notice that their work is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.
Democrats and federal employee unions say the provision, which one called the “Armageddon Rule,” could prove disastrous to the federal workforce, when combined with president-elect Donald Trump’s criticism of the Washington bureaucracy, his call for a freeze on government hiring and his nomination of Cabinet secretaries who seem to be at odds with the mission of the agencies they would lead.
There are already enough career-ending consequences in Washington for anyone who dares to go against the grain. Becoming an actual whistleblower is a sure path to losing your post and likely being smeared in the process. But this weaponizes Republicans, giving them the opportunity to harass individuals for far lesser acts of noncompliance. And more broadly for Team Trump—all those federal workers studying climate change: $1. Anyone promoting or studying women’s issues like covered contraception or paid leave: $1. Let’s face it, so-called “women’s issues,” which broadly affect American families nationwide, are all government waste in GOP eyes.
These are simply stunning early power grabs designed to bend everyone in Washington to the GOP will—whatever that may be. Don’t take my word for it, take the word of the House leadership at face value.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that insofar as voters elected Trump with the hope of fundamentally changing the way government works, the Holman Rule gives Congress a chance to do just that.
“This is a big rule change inside there that allows people to get at places they hadn’t before,” he told reporters this week.
Asked which agencies would be targeted, he said that “all agencies should be held accountable and tested in a manner and this is an avenue to allow them to do it.”
The change also appears to be a somewhat coordinated effort between Team Trump and Republicans on the Hill.
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.
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 — these changes are all on the table now under unified Republican rule in Washington.
The Rule passed on a party line vote: All Republicans voting in favor, all Democrats voting against.
Let’s just note that this also has the whiff of unintended consequences to come. While many of the jobs that could be cut affect constituents from mostly blue areas in Northern Virginia and Maryland, many constituents in red states are the beneficiaries of the very programs those federal employees administer.
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