Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., introduced the bill.

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., introduced the bill. Nati Harnik / AP

Bill Advances That Would Deny Bonuses to Feds Found to Have Engaged in Misconduct

Employees would be barred from bonuses for five years following adverse findings in an investigation.  

A Senate oversight committee on Wednesday advanced a bill that would prevent agencies from giving bonuses to federal employees with conduct violations.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the "Stop Improper Federal Bonuses Act" (S. 2119) by a voice vote. This was the fourth time the panel has taken up the legislation. 

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., mandates that agencies wait five years before giving bonuses to employees who have violated workplace policies. 

“Under my bill, bonuses to federal workers will only be given on the basis of merit,” Fischer said in a statement. “This will help ensure we are using taxpayer dollars in a wise and responsible manner.” 

A 2018 Treasury Department Inspector General report found that between October 2015 and December 2016, the Internal Revenue Service gave over $1.7 million in awards to 1,962 employees who had violated workplace policies, Fischer’s statement said. Currently there are no restrictions on awarding bonuses to federal workers. 

The bill defines “adverse findings” that would disqualify employees from receiving bonuses as a determination of the agency head that an employee violated agency policy. Employees who are removed or suspended for 14 or more days, imprisoned for over a year or found through inspector general investigations to have engaged in wrongdoing would be subject to the ban.  

Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, introduced a similar bill in 2014. Fischer then introduced it in 2015 and 2017. In all cases it did not receive a vote in the full Senate. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the oversight committee, submitted a report to accompany the legislation in 2017 noting the Congressional Budget Office predicted that although the number of people eligible for bonuses would decrease under the new policy, the overall amount of bonus money awarded would not change and therefore the bill would not have a major impact on the federal budget. 

There is no companion bill in the House.