Lawmakers criticize growth of federal workforce

Just days after the House and Senate struck down provisions to save money by cutting federal employees' pay, some Republican lawmakers now are looking to shrink the size of the government workforce.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., attacked the U.S. job numbers for May released Friday, pointing out that of the 431,000 jobs created last month, 411,000 -- 95 percent -- were federal jobs relating to the census.

"It's clear that the only thing benefiting from the economic policies of the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress is the government," Issa said.

Another Republican lawmaker, Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., is pushing a bill aimed at reversing the growth of the federal workforce that she says has occurred since President Obama took office.

According to Lummis, the federal civilian workforce has grown by 188,000, or about 15 percent, since 2008, not including temporary census-related hires. Her bill, the 2010 Federal Workforce Reduction Act (H.R. 5348), would allow the government to hire only one employee for every two workers who leave, with exemptions for the Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments.

"This unprecedented government growth is not the answer to getting the country's economy going again," Lummis said in a statement. "Big government, with its long arm, taxes and overreaching mandates, gets in the way of our small businesses and entrepreneurs. Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the engine of our economy and should not be crowded out by unchecked government growth."

Lummis said the legislation "aggressively halts the sprawl of government, forces agency heads to make government more efficient, and helps us get back to a people-centered, not government-centered America," and argued it would save taxpayers $3.5 billion in 2011 and $35 billion over 10 years.

Under the bill, agencies essentially would compete for the ability to hire new employees. The president would establish a federal workforce hiring pool, the size of which would fluctuate depending on the number of employees who retired or left federal service, and agencies would have to submit a request to the president to hire from within the pool. Lummis said this would require agencies to justify all new hires.

The legislation also would require regular disclosure of all new hires, organized by agency, to the public and Congress.

Max Stier, president of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, said in a statement that while business as usual is not good enough for government given the serious fiscal challenges the country faces, Lummis' bill is not the right answer.

"History has shown that governmentwide hiring freezes result neither in smaller nor more effective government," Stier said. "Indeed, downsizing the federal workforce without strategic workforce planning will result in skills gaps, an increased reliance on contractors and ultimately a government that is less efficient and effective than the American people deserve."

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