The top Democrat on the House Rules Committee is hopping mad that Republicans revived a 19th-century rule allowing lawmakers to essentially fire individual civil servants and eliminate entire federal programs when they approved the rules package governing the 115th Congress on a party-line vote earlier this month.
New York Rep. Louise Slaughter said inclusion of the Holman Rule, first approved in 1876, in the package is a way for Republicans to punish federal workers for implementing laws with which they don’t agree.
Under the Holman Rule, members of Congress can tack amendments onto appropriation bills that would cut the number of federal workers in a particular agency, slash a worker’s salary to as little as $1, or eliminate an entire program.
“Reinstating this rule represents yet another effort by the Republican majority to scapegoat federal employees, make cuts to the federal workforce, and politicize the civil service system that was established to professionalize agencies and offices,” Slaughter said on the House floor Jan. 3.
She said it’s particularly troubling in light of the Trump transition team’s request for the names of all Energy Department scientists who attended environmental conferences focused on global warming.
Speaking to a couple reporters before the House left town last week, Slaughter lamented that the rules package was just the beginning of GOP efforts to undermine the nation’s regulatory regime and go backward on rules and laws meant to hold elected officials accountable.
“We may never get it back,” she said about lawmakers’ and voters’ expectations that politicians will abide — and should abide — by ethics rules and laws.
That request to “‘name names” is worrisome because Republicans could be telegraphing that they will use the rule, named for 19th Century Rep. William Holman, D-Ind., “to persecute career employees for doing their jobs during the Obama administration,” she said.
The House stripped the Holman Rule from its standing rules in 1983. Given that history and objections from some GOP lawmakers, House Republican leaders agreed to initially only put into place for a year.