Lawmaker Looks to Reform Agencies Without Hurting Their Employees

Rep. Mike Michaud backs a gentler approach than Republican colleagues. Rep. Mike Michaud backs a gentler approach than Republican colleagues. Cliff Owen/AP

A Democratic lawmaker is pushing two pieces of legislation designed to improve agency management without hurting federal employees along the way – or at least not to the extent of alternative bills.

Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, recently introduced the 2014 Comprehensive Department of Veterans’ Affairs Performance Management and Accountability Reform Act, which would set clearer goals against which senior VA executives’ job performance could be measured. The Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member was critical of VA’s shortcomings and scandals, but struck a much softer tone in his bill than other, Republican-backed measures.

“Republicans and Democrats share the common goal of ensuring our seniors receive the best services possible -- they deserve nothing less,” Michaud wrote in a letter asking for his colleagues’ support. “And we agree that when negative outcomes occur, employees -- especially VA’s senior leadership -- must be held accountable.”

His solution, however, was to establish up-front organizational goals for VA’s senior executives, and to use them in reviewing performance. Previous measures considered by the committee would make it easier to fire VA supervisors and prohibit them from earning bonuses for five years. The House has also voted -- without any Democratic opposition -- to cut the funding for bonuses for all VA employees by 14 percent through 2018.

Michaud -- a Maine gubernatorial candidate in 2014 – also is advocating a gentler approach to overhauling the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service.

In an April 10 letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Michaud asked that USPS reform legislation  be brought to the House floor for a vote, but he blasted recent Republican efforts to find savings through compensation cuts to Postal Service employees.

“A financially sound USPS means that the jobs of hardworking postal employees are secure and a dependable level of service can be maintained,” Michaud said in a statement accompanying the letter. “It’s time for Congress to act on meaningful reform so that the Postal Service can continue to keep American families and businesses connected.”

The congressman asked Boehner to bring postal reform to a vote “as soon as Congress returns from April recess,” though that timetable will likely be postponed as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will consider new USPS legislation

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