January 5, 2017

House Republicans have quietly reinstated an obscure rule from 1876 which targets civil servants and allows Congress to strip their pay down to $1.

Washington Post:

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.

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.

As Ari Melber explains in the video above, this rule could be used to target individuals working in the EPA or other agencies (like say, the CIA?) whose work comes into conflict with the far-right ideologies of the majority and the incoming President.

While that is a possibility, it's far more likely that this is the first move toward breaking the federal employees' unions.

J. David Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees, expressed concern in a statement.

“Reviving this rule means lawmakers will be able to vote to cut the pay and jobs of individual workers or groups of workers without getting input from the agencies where these employees work,” he wrote.

“The jobs and paychecks of career federal workers should not be subject to the whims of elected politicians. The Holman Rule will not only harm our hardworking federal workforce, but jeopardize the critical governmental services upon which the American people rely.”

Most government workers are represented by unions -- unions conservative Congressmen would very much like to destroy. So in addition to using this rule as a weapon against specific government workers, it is also a weapon of mass destruction to unions.

As is noted in the interview above, it is not too late to stop them, but it means action similar to what happened with the ethics office. Everyone needs to call their Representative and register their objection to this rule.

Whatever the outcome, Cox' final objection is one we should all be concerned about.

“The so-called Holman Rule undermines civil service protections for the millions of working people who process our Social Security checks, safeguard our borders, support our military, research cures for deadly diseases and carry out programs and services that are vital to our nation.”

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