Speed Reads


House GOP enacts rule allowing lawmakers to fire, slash salaries of individual federal employees

At the same closed-door meeting on Monday where House Republicans voted to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics — a move scrapped after a public outcry — the House GOP also adopted a motion by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) that allows Congress to single out individual federal employees and eliminate their jobs or reduce their pay down to as little as $1, or cut specific federal programs, through amendments to the budget. The procedural mechanism, adopted Tuesday, is called the Holman Rule, named after the Indiana congressman who created it in 1876, The Washington Post explains:

Early in its history, the rule was used to eliminate patronage jobs, particularly customs agents, in the late 19th century before the federal workforce shifted to a nonpolitical civil service. The rule was dropped in 1983, when then-House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) objected to spending cuts proposed by Republicans and conservative Democrats. Griffith, known as the unofficial parliamentarian in the hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus, sought to revive it out of frustration with an $80 million federal program that pays for the care of wild horses on federal land in the West. He considers the program wasteful. [The Washington Post]

Democrats and even some of Griffith's GOP colleagues opposed the change, arguing that it could be abused to target bureaucrats for political reasons — Donald Trump's presidential transition team has requested the names of federal workers who focus on climate change, for example — and will gum up the budget process with politically controversial, small-bore amendments. In a concession to skeptical Republicans, the rule expires in a year unless re-authorized. You can read more about the Holman Rule at The Washington Post.