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

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) brought back an old rule to haunt the civil service
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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]

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.