Last week, House Republicans resurrected a rule that would allow members of Congress to cut the pay of any single federal worker to $1, via an amendment to appropriations bills. Lawmakers passed the revived 140-year-old Holman Rule last Tuesday as part of the House rules package.
“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,” write Jenna Portnoy and Lisa Rein at The Washington Post. “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 rule would also allow Congress to eliminate specific positions or entire programs at will. Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), who spearheaded the rule’s revival, argues that the provision will allow Congress to reduce spending in a targeted way. However, he acknowledges that legislators could “go crazy” and cut “huge swaths of the workforce,” The Washington Post says.
“I can’t tell you it won’t happen,” he said in an interview with the paper. “The power is there. But isn’t that appropriate? Who runs this country, the people of the United States or the people on the people’s payroll?”
A “Civil Service Witch Hunt”
It’s impossible not to draw a connection between the revived rule and the Trump administration’s requests for lists of federal employees who worked on specific programs.
“It’s alarming that members of Congress will now be able to engage in targeted witch hunts against entire departments or individual employees who happen to work on subjects that do not fit a representative’s values or agenda,” writes Hank Johnson, Jr. in an op-ed at The Boston Globe.
“The most obvious targets are Department of Energy climate scientists and State Department teams that work on gender equality issues — both of which have already been singled out by yet-to-be-sworn-in Trump administration,” he says. “But the rule change can broadly apply to any program or individual civil servant.”
The rule is set to expire in one year, unless Congress votes to renew it.
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The revived Holman Rule: cost-cutter or potential witch hunt? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.