House Makes It Easier to Cut Federal Employees' Pay, Slash Workforce

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the rule change would allow for “short-sighted” pay cuts that unfairly “scapegoat” federal employees. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the rule change would allow for “short-sighted” pay cuts that unfairly “scapegoat” federal employees. J. Scott Applewhite/AP file photo

Lawmakers on Tuesday approved a resolution that contains language making it easier for Congress to slash the federal workforce and cut the pay of federal employees.

A provision of the Rules for the 115th Congress governing the House of Representatives will enable lawmakers to reduce the number of federal workers at specific agencies or cut their compensation as a provision of or an amendment to an appropriations bill. The House Policy Committee said the measure will bring back what was known as the “Holman Rule” before Congress eliminated it in 1983. The rule will allow lawmakers to cut the workforce or compensation for employees only at the agencies covered by the specific spending bill in which the provision or amendment is included.

The salary reductions could target only those employees whose salaries are paid for by the Treasury.

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“The purpose of this provision is to see if the reinstatement of the Holman rule will provide members with additional tools to reduce spending during consideration of the regular general appropriation bill,” the House Policy Committee said in a summary of the measure.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on the House floor Tuesday the rule change would allow for “short-sighted” pay cuts that unfairly “scapegoat” federal employees.

The provision would only be in place for the first session of the 115th Congress, meaning it will be in effect for 2017 only. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to reduce the size of the federal workforce through attrition.

“We can also reduce the size of the federal bureaucracy through responsible workforce attrition -- that is, when employees retire, they can be replaced by a smaller number of new employees,” Trump said in September. He has promised to institute a governmentwide hiring freeze on his first day in office, but has yet to spell out the details of the policy. 

President Obama, meanwhile, unexpectedly boosted federal employees’ pay raise to 2.1 percent for 2017. 

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