Republicans in the House of Representatives have revived a procedural rule that allows Congress to reduce the pay of an individual federal worker down to a $1. Named for a U.S. Representative from Indiana who created the rule in 1876, the Holman Rule enables any member of Congress to introduce an amendment to appropriations bills to target a specific government program or employee.
A majority of both the House and Senate would have to approve any such amendment, however.
Congressional Democrats and federal employee unions say that the Holman Rule will be disastrous for the thousands of federal bureaucrats now employed. President-elect Donald Trump has called for a government hiring-freeze, besides criticizing the federal bureaucracy. Restoring the Holman Rule was an idea of Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA).
In a statement this week, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees, J. David Cox Sr. said that “The so-called Holman Rule undermines civil service protections for the millions of working people who process our Social Security checks, safeguard our borders, ...and carry out programs and services that are vital to our nation.”
Cox added, “The jobs and paychecks of career federal workers should not be subject to the whims of elected politicians. The Holman Rule will not only harm our hardworking federal workforce, but jeopardize the critical governmental services upon which the American people rely.”
House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) said on January 3 that he is "deeply concerned by a number of controversial provisions" included by Republicans. Members of Congress who represent Virginia and Maryland are especially concerned because they represent large numbers of federal workers who live in the Washington DC metro area, which also happens to be one of the wealthiest regions of the country.
The Holman provision was approved on January 3. GOP members say that the Holman Rule makes government more accountable. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said because Donald Trump was elected to make fundamental changes to government, Congress will be able to carry out the wishes of voters now that the Holman Rule is in effect. He told reporters this week, “This is a big rule change inside there that allows people to get at places they hadn’t before,” he told reporters this week.
Among the changes now being contemplated besides a hiring freeze are: termination for poor job performance, a ban on conducting labor union business during working hours, and putting an end to automatic pay raises.
In the late 19th century, the Holman Rule was utilized to eliminate patronage jobs, especially in the Customs Service in the days before the creation of a supposedly nonpolitical civil service. When Tip O’Neill (D-MA) was Speaker of the House, Democrats dropped the rule when he objected to bipartisan spending cuts.