by Lil Tuttle
Conservatives were furious when it was revealed that IRS employee Lois Lerner abused her position in the federal government by harassing conservative non-profit organizations and by sharing confidential IRS tax records with outside government agents. Lerner pled the Fifth Amendment during Congressional hearings and, protected by the Obama administration, skated on the charges made against her. She has since taken early retirement from federal service. But rogue federal workers could face a much different outcome with the revival of an old procedural rule.
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.
Federal employee unions and Democrats are unhappy.
Democrats and federal employee unions say the provision, which one called the “Armageddon Rule,” could prove alarming to the federal workforce because it comes in combination with President-elect Donald Trump’s criticism of the Washington bureaucracy…
The Holman Rule, originally implemented to “eliminate [political] patronage jobs,” was discontinued in 1983 by Democratic House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill Jr. (D-Mass.). With the extraordinary partisan actions of federal employees such as Lerner still fresh in many peoples’ minds, the idea of reviving the rule gained traction in the new Congress.
Proponents see the rule “as a means of increasing accountability in government.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that voters elected Trump with the hope of fundamentally changing the way government works and that 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 rule’s revival – the “brainchild of Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va)” (a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus) – was part of a package governing the rules of the first year of 115th Congress. It passed by a 234-193 vote in the U.S. House on January 3rd, 2017.
Source: House Republicans revive obscure rule that allows them to slash the pay of individual federal workers to $1, Jenna Portnoy and Lisa Rein, Washington Post, Jan 5, 2017.