This week the House voted to extend a rule making it easier for lawmakers to eliminate federal jobs and cut federal pay. The Holman Rule was brought back at the beginning of the 115th Congress, but it was scheduled to only be in place for one year.
This rule, which had been banned since 1983, enables lawmakers to reduce the number of federal employees at specific agencies or cut federal pay as a provision of or an amendment to an appropriation bill. They can cut the rolls or compensation for employees only at the agencies covered by the specific spending bill in which the provision or amendment is included. The salary reductions can target only those employees whose salaries are paid from the Treasury.
The Holman Rule was never used successfully in 2017. Congress tried slashing 1/3 of the employees in the Congressional Budget Offices, but that was easily defeated on the House floor. Amendments were also put forward to strip the salaries of any employee working full time on official time or anyone “not subject to at-will employment”. However, those provisions did not make it out of committee.
The House Policy Committee said when it first passed the rule last year that it was intended to “provide members with additional tools to reduce spending during consideration of the regular general appropriations bill”.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., accused House Republicans of sneaking in the rule extension “without any public debate”. “This archaic tool, also known as the Armageddon Rule, is nothing more than a backdoor way for Republicans to dismantle the federal workforce and carry out political vendettas at the expense of career civil servants,” he said. He added, “no one is safe” because Republicans attempted to invoke the measure on the non-partisan CBO.