Lawmaker proposes federal hiring freeze

This story has been updated.

A House lawmaker is seeking a freeze on federal hiring until the government eliminates its deficit.

Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., on Thursday introduced legislation that would prohibit agencies from hiring new employees until the deficit is resolved. The bill does allow "common-sense" exceptions for national security and law enforcement, however.

The U.S. Postal Service and Postal Regulatory Commission also would be exempt from the freeze, along with reassignments within the same agency, short-term, seasonal hiring and transitional positions involving a new presidential administration.

"We must stick to the trifecta of downsizing Washington, cutting spending and keeping taxes low," he said. "We cannot allow the federal government to grow at record levels while we ask our business owners and families to be more frugal and to get by with a lot less."

The legislation also would increase accountability by requiring the president to report quarterly on new appointments made, according to Marino.

The proposal is not the first to limit government hiring, however. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., in February reintroduced the Federal Workforce Reduction Act, which would reduce the size of the federal workforce by attrition by hiring only one employee for every two who retire or leave service. It also would require agencies to justify their new hires and the administration to disclose all new employees by agency. Under the bill, the freeze would stay in effect until the deficit is eliminated.

Max Stier, president of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, said the legislation is an ineffective way of making government less wasteful.

"It's not an issue about head count, it's an issue of making sure we are living within our means, providing service and doing it in a way that is cost-effective," he said. "If you look at the hiring that's occurred in recent times, it's almost entirely around physical safety or taking care of our veterans. You have to ask the question, do you really want to foreclose on our abilities to meet those critical needs?"

The National Treasury Employees Union opposes what its president, Colleen Kelley, called "ill-advised" legislation. "Rather than addressing the real drivers behind our nation's deficit, this bill would force the government to rely even more heavily on unaccountable and expensive private contractors, resulting in higher costs to taxpayers, poor services and dubious transactions," Kelley said in a statement.

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