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FCW : January and February 2017
January/February 2017 FCW.COM 19 entire federal workforce by 10 percent and extend the workday for those who remained. It’s not clear if the rule was ever used to cut a specific individual’s salary to an intolerable level in order to pressure him or her to leave govern- ment service. However, an appropriations chair- man did rule in favor of a 1976 amend- ment to bar appropriated funds from being used to pay any Labor Depart- ment employee who proposes mon- etary fines against small farmers for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act if those violations are “neither willful, repeated nor seri- ous.” Those determinations were up to the politically appointed leader of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, who appears to have been the target of the provision. That application of the Holman Rule might be seen as having a chilling effect on a federal employee’s performance of official duties, but in this instance, the amendment was written to reinforce the existing standards for assessing such fines. So if all that is within bounds, what’s out of bounds? Under the rule, spending reductions in provisions and amendments must not be contingent on events or projections. And proceeds from the sale of government property typically cannot be treated as savings under Holman. Additionally, the rule does not permit appropriators to con- vey blanket authority to agency heads to fire civil servants. Here are some examples: • A 1922 effort to get the Treasury Department to modernize its engrav- ing equipment and eliminate 218 plate- printing jobs was ruled out of order until the legislative language was changed to unlink the acquisition of power printing presses from the job cuts. • A 1934 plan to index legislative sala- ries to wholesale commodity price lev- els was ruled out of order under Hol- man because of the speculative nature of the Depression-era scheme. • A provision in a 1950 appropriations bill to give the secretary of State blan- ket authority to “terminate the employ- ment of any officer or employee of the Department of State or of the Foreign Service of the United States whenever he shall deem such termination nec- essary or advisable in the interests of the United States” was judged to be outside the scope of the Holman Rule. A drag on appropriations? Would new House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frel- inghuysen (R-N.J.) be bound by the historical applications of the Holman Rule? Donald Wolfensberger, a congressio- nal fellow at the Wilson Center and for- mer staff director of the House Rules Committee, thinks so. “The same prec- edents will apply that applied at the time when the language was in effect,” he told FCW. Wolfensberger sees the Holman Rule as another way for lawmakers to go after programs and offices they deem to be wasteful, in the same way that limitation amendments are used to target spending on federal employ- ees’ travel, conference attendance and other kinds of expenditures. He said he does not see a big risk to individual feds, but “if someone is on their high horse about an agency or employee,” the Holman Rule could be used as an instrument to go after that target. “These things will pop up from time to time,” he added. Wolfensberger expressed concern that the revival of the rule could slow the appropriations process by bogging lawmakers down in amendments to retrench spending. “Limitation amendments already account for well over 50 percent of all the amendments offered on the floor,” he said. “Add [the Holman Rule] to the dozens of limitation amendments already being offered and you wonder if the House will even complete action on five or six of the 12 appropriations bills this year.” n So can Congress use the Holman Rule to cut a government employee’s salary to $1? Possibly, but it would take some doing. 0217fcw_018-019.indd 19 1/24/17 9:39 AM
November and December 2016