Congress returned to Washington this week following the midterm elections and primarily focused on leadership decisions for the upcoming 116th Congress (2019-2020). Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was re-elected by his fellow Republican Senators to serve as Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, while Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was chosen anew by Democratic Senators to be the Senate Minority Leader. With the House switching from Republican to Democratic control starting in January, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) won election as House Minority Leader. The House Democratic Caucus elections are scheduled for November 28th, and the formal floor vote for Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives will be held January 3rd per tradition when the 116th Congress convenes.
As the incoming House leadership prepares their agenda and legislative priorities, they are crafting the rules and procedures for the House of Representatives to operate under for the next Congress. While still in draft form until formally acted upon in a few weeks, the NTEU-opposed ‘Holman Rule’ currently in place is set to be officially eliminated. In early 2017, the adopted set of rules for the House included the so-called “Holman Rule,” which was first used in 1876 and later abandoned in 1983. Under the Holman Rule, amendments are allowed on appropriations measures that are legislative in nature (generally banned), and of greatest concern, amendments are also in order that seek to reduce the number of federal employee positions at agencies, as well as those that reduce or zero out individual federal employee salaries and compensation (thereby effecting the removal of an individual). The Holman Rule change was put into effect in January 2017 by House leadership for calendar year 2017 (the first session of the 115th Congress), and in early 2018 was extended for the rest of this calendar year. While no federal employee was ultimately removed or lost salary owing to its use, NTEU is strongly supportive of the incoming leadership’s plans to eliminate the Holman Rule given that it is a legislative weapon that targets the federal workforce.
Both chambers will be in recess next week with legislators in their states and districts for the Thanksgiving holiday. When Congress returns the week of November 26th, there will be two weeks remaining before the current Continuing Resolution (CR)--for agencies that did not receive full-year Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 funding--expires midnight on December 7th between Friday and Saturday.
The following NTEU-represented agencies are currently operating under the CR: IRS and other Department of Treasury Offices and Bureaus, CBP and FLETC, CFTC, EPA, FCC, FDA (portions) FEC, NPS, PTO, SEC, and USDA. (Please note many agencies have multiple funding sources—appropriations, fees, trust and working capital funds—so each agency can have employees covered under different funding sources and laws.)
While House-Senate conference committees held negotiations earlier this fall for some of the above agencies, several agencies-such as DHS-have not been addressed by either chamber. Failure to resolve outstanding policy issues could result in a lapse of appropriations for any agencies that do not receive full or partial year funding- or a subsequent short-term CR- prior to December 7th. Today, Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) met with the President to discuss end-of-year funding issues.
As Congress and the White House work to resolve differences, NTEU continues to advocate against any shutdown and to press for adequate funding for our agencies as well as for a pay increase for federal employees. In the case of a shutdown for some agencies, NTEU will work to ensure Congress provides prompt pay for impacted employees.