House Republicans Propose Federal Hiring, Pay Initiatives to Combat COVID-19
The Republican Study Committee said Congress should streamline the hiring process for federal workers, as well as change the pay system to allow higher compensation for “high skilled” workers.
Members of a conservative caucus of House Republicans on Monday urged congressional leadership to adopt proposals to give federal agencies more flexibility in the hiring and compensation of some federal workers to help respond quickly to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Republican Study Committee sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urging them to include in the next coronavirus relief measure a number of plans related to the federal workforce. Negotiations on a so-called Phase Four bill remain ongoing, although a deal is not imminent.
In the letter, caucus chairman Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., and Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., argued that provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed last month, waiving Title 5 federal hiring requirements at the Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development departments should be expanded governmentwide during the course of the pandemic.
“The challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best in many of America’s federal personnel,” they wrote. “These patriotic civil servants, along with countless experts in the private sector and generous volunteers, have done their best to respond to an extraordinary global crisis. Still, the need for more highly trained and specialized workers to join the federal ranks has been made apparent.”
The lawmakers also called for a “reform” of the General Schedule pay system to allow for increased pay for federal workers “with critical skills” and expanded use of cash bonuses to reward top performers.
Johnson and Gianforte also called on lawmakers to include the Eliminate Agency Excess Space Act (H.R. 6128) as part of the next major coronavirus response legislation. That bill, introduced by Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., would repeal laws limiting the sale, lease or demolition of federal office space.
“Beyond unleashing the federal workforce, the government should optimize the utility of existing federal infrastructure to combat COVID-19,” they wrote. “This simple reform would ease the transfer of unused federal property to support health care workers serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 crises.”
The study committee’s plan also calls for the enactment of a bill requiring states to share death data with the Social Security Administration to prevent improper payments to dead Americans, and to streamline federal business and environmental permitting processes.
“In so many cases, the existing burden of bureaucracy and overregulation has unnecessarily hindered the ability of the federal government to respond to this evolving crisis,” they wrote. “Federal agencies have had to waive hundreds of rules and mandates that otherwise would have contributed to loss of life, economic uncertainty, and an exploding federal deficit. These latest examples have highlighted the need for significant regulatory reform in the future to better equip our nation to deal with emergencies.”