GOP seeks to broker deal on civil service issues in homeland bill

Seeking to avoid a war over homeland security at a markup Friday, House Republicans are scrambling to reach a compromise with Democrats over the civil service rules that would govern the 170,000 employees of the proposed Homeland Security Department.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, the chairman of the ad hoc Homeland Security Committee, excluded the employment section from the homeland security legislation he unveiled today. Instead, he and other Republicans on the select committee are meeting with Democrats to try to find a middle ground between the Bush administration's plan to give the department's secretary broad authority to waive civil service laws and the traditional practices endorsed by the Government Reform Committee last week.

Republicans on the ad hoc panel said they made progress at an hour-long, closed-door meeting today. Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, emerged from the session saying "big progress" had been made. She told reporters that "most employee rights" will be covered by the legislation.

Democrats were more skeptical. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost of Texas said the GOP proposal was very general and added that it was impossible to tell if progress was made until Republicans produce something in writing.

Republicans plan to draft the new employment provisions, but some were skeptical that a deal could be reached before Friday's markup.

Most House Republicans agree ideologically with the White House approach, but know they will need the support of Democrats to move homeland security legislation through the House next week by a large margin.

GOP sources on the ad hoc committee said any compromise with the Democrats, who want to safeguard current civil service protections for employees of the new department, would involve a hybrid of the White House plan and the Government Reform Committee proposal.

"Some of what the Government Reform Committee did is excellent work and some of it can be improved upon," said Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a committee member.

Republican leaders also hope to reach deals on a pair of other issues that could help smooth the bill's path to enactment. Republicans hope to mollify House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska, and his committee members who fear that moving the Coast Guard into the new department would damage the Coast Guard's traditional search and rescue functions. Republican leaders are honing a plan that would guarantee that the Coast Guard's budget for non-security programs would not suffer if it becomes a part of the Homeland Security Department.

"I think [Young] will be satisfied," one GOP leadership source said. "There is no lack of commitment to the Coast Guard in this proposal."

House leaders also have encouraged the Appropriations Committee to negotiate a deal on funding flexibility with the White House. In his bill released today, Armey sided with the appropriators, but the White House may require some discretion over department funding in order to sign off on the legislation.

The bill also adopts a number of the recommendations made by committees in the last week, according to a summary of the bill distributed by Armey. For example, the bill sides with the Judiciary Committee in splitting the Immigration and Naturalization Service and with the International Relations panel by leaving visa authority with the State Department.

The bill also would permit the proposed department's secretary to block freedom of information requests for new information provided to the department-but not for existing information.

On privacy issues, the bill would prohibit the department from nationalizing drivers' licenses and create a privacy officer at the department to "ensure technology research and new regulations from the department respect the civil liberties our citizens enjoy," according to the bill summary.

The bill also seeks to make the department accountable to Congress by banning the secretary from reorganizing agencies transferred to the department.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.