Lawmakers to block Bush proposal to limit executive detailees to Capitol Hill

Two House lawmakers are trying to block a Bush administration proposal they say would severely limit the number of executive branch employees serving temporary stints in congressional offices.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., on Wednesday announced plans to offer an amendment to the fiscal 2004 Transportation and Treasury appropriations bill that would prevent the use of federal funds to "implement, administer, or enforce" a proposal by the Office of Personnel Management to exert more control over the current system of assigning federal employees to serve in temporary assignments in congressional offices.

"I have had detailees from federal agencies on my staff for over seven years and my office has profited from their knowledge and skills," Hoyer said. "I fear that this rule will result in a significant loss to my office and to the Congress as a whole."

According to the rule, which was published in the Federal Register on Sept. 9, OPM Director Kay Coles James would approve all requests to detail federal employees to Capitol Hill and most assignments would be limited to 180 days. In an Oct. 15 letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, James explained that the regulation was not an attempt to reduce the number of detailees, but instead was a move to better coordinate and oversee the process.

"We do not know how many executive branch employees are presently with congressional staff, nor do we know how long those currently serving have been there," James wrote. "This is unacceptable."

In an Oct. 6 letter to James, Hoyer contended that agency and department heads should manage detailees and questioned the 180-day limit included in the proposed rule.

"Detailees will only have a few months to perform productive work and to apply their new skills and knowledge," Hoyer wrote. "Furthermore, 180 days will not permit enough time for detailees to initiate and complete much of the work during a legislative session, which can last up to a year."

Hoyer and Wolf argued that OPM's influence would be "counterproductive and inefficient."

"It's not clear why such a dramatic change that would affect the number, availability and tenure of executive branch detailees is needed," Wolf said. "I would hope that OPM would not act so quickly on a regulation that would affect hundreds of federal agency employees and a significant number of congressional offices without consulting the Congress."

The comment period on the proposed rule ends Oct. 24. Send comments by email to, by fax to (202) 606-2329 or by regular mail to:

Leah M. Meisel
Deputy Associate Director for Talent and Capacity Policy
Office of Personnel Management
1900 E Street, N.W., Room 6551
Washington, D.C. 20415-9700