GOP Platform: Cut Feds’ Pay and Benefits While Making It Easier to Fire Them

Democratic platform largely silent on federal employee issues.

The Republican Party’s 2016 platform calls for a slew of reforms targeting the federal workforce, including cuts to pay and benefits.

The document, which the party finalized at the opening day of the Republican National Convention Monday, called federal employees overpaid and over-protected. The party said federal workers’ compensation was “wildly out of line with the private sector.”

“We urge Congress to bring federal compensation and benefits in line with the standards of most American employees,” Republicans wrote in the platform, which sets policy priorities for the next four years. The party stated that feds earn an average of $35,000 per year in non-cash benefits, calling that number three times that of the average private sector employee. The direct call for lowering federal employees’ compensation goes beyond the 2012 platform, which instead suggested creating a more “flexible” pay system to reward top performers.

The platform also suggested civil service reforms, saying it should be easier for agencies to fire employees.

“A Republican administration should streamline personnel procedures to expedite the firing of bad workers, tax cheats, and scammers,” the party said.

Specifically at the Veterans Affairs Department, the party blasted senior leaders for failing to hold subordinates accountable and urged restructuring VA by “placing presidential appointees, rather than careerists, in additional positions of significant responsibility.”

The platform advocated giving veterans more opportunities to receive care outside of VA facilities. “We cannot allow an unresponsive bureaucracy to blunt our nation,” Republicans said.  

They also called on Congress to review federal employee unions’ impact on the “cost, quality and performance of the civil service.”

The party said the practice known as official time -- which allows federal union representatives to conduct union activity while collecting a federal salary and working in a federal workspace -- should be outlawed.

Later in the platform, Republicans offered some praise for the federal workforce.

“We recognize the dedication of most employees of the federal government and thank them for their service,” the party wrote, “with special praise for the whistleblowers who risk their careers to expose waste, fraud and misuse of power.”

The platform condemned federal managers who fail to discipline problematic employees as “an affront to every conscientious worker.” Republicans called on their next president to appoint officials who would work with career supervisors to “enforce high standards for all federal employees.”

They also suggested reducing government responsibilities, saying Congress should focus first on cutting the “bloated public relations budgets of departments and agencies.”

The platform identified the Internal Revenue Service as another area for cuts. Republicans conceded “many good civil servants” work at the IRS, but labeled the agency “toxic.”

“Its leadership employs known tax delinquents, rehires workers previously fired for misconduct, spends user fees without congressional oversight, and awards bonuses for customer service that would put any private company out of business,” the party wrote.

It said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen should be impeached and convicted, and accused the agency of systematically enforcing biased policies to benefit the Democratic Party. The document also raised the prospect of eliminating the IRS altogether.

“We also support making the federal tax code so simple and easy to understand that the IRS becomes obsolete and can be abolished,” Republicans said.

The party criticized the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Communications Commission and others, for imposing overly burdensome regulations. It said any rule with significant costs should require congressional approval, lawmakers should force agencies to eliminate a regulation of equal value to every new one they create and Congress should place a budgetary cap on the “costs federal agencies could impose on the economy in any given year.”

Republicans also voiced their support for the principles behind a recent House-backed bill that would require federal courts to take more authority in interpreting federal statutes than “unelected bureaucrats” in the executive branch.

The party said federal land management agencies should hand over control of “certain” federally controlled public lands to states. Republican nominee Donald Trump has voiced opposition to this proposal, saying the federal government should maintain control of the lands.

“I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great,” Trump told Field and Stream earlier this year, “and you don’t know what the state is going to do.”

Cuts would likely reach the entire federal government if the policies of the platform were enacted; the party, as it has for years, called for an amendment to the Constitution for a balanced budget.

The final draft of the Democratic platform, meanwhile, is largely silent on most issues important to federal employees. Advocates had called on the platform committee to embrace their priorities, but party officials largely declined to do so.

The draft, which will be ratified at the Democratic National Convention next week, advocated “responsible fiscal stewardship” in managing the federal government. While it did not get into details of civil service reforms, it called for feds to be held accountable for their job performance.

“We are committed to a strong, effective, accountable civil service, delivering the quality public services Americans have every right to expect,” the party wrote.

It also said work currently performed by federal employees should not be contracted out.

“Democrats believe that we should not be contracting, outsourcing or privatizing work that is inherently governmental in nature, including postal services, school services, and state and local government services,” the draft platform stated.

Democrats said they were “outraged by the systemic problems plaguing” VA, but that they would reject any efforts to privatize the department. The platform proposed allowing the U.S. Postal Service to offer basic banking services and returning its mail delivery schedule to 2012 standards. Postal management has rejected that proposal, claiming the reversion to faster delivery was “financially and operationally indefensible.”