Bill would protect the Merit Systems Protection Board

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The federal Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) — which protects the rights of veterans when they return to civilian life — is down to one member and that person’s term expires on March 1, 2019. That could leave veterans without effective protection.

Hoping to avoid that, Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) introduced legislation that would provide a one-time, one-year extension of the current member’s term.

“I am deeply concerned about the possibility that at the end of the month the MSPB could lose all of its principal officers,” said Cummings. “The MSPB is an independent agency charged with protecting the employment rights of veterans’ when they return from active duty, safeguarding whistleblowers from reprisal, and ensuring that federal employees receive due process. It is crucial that we temporarily extend the sole current Board member’s term to ensure the continued functioning of this vital agency.”

“Vacancies at the top of any federal agency are concerning, and here at the MSPB, we have seen how vacancies affect federal employees and the ability of the agency to fulfill its Congressional mandate,” said Connolly. “The MSPB has been without a quorum since January 2017, the longest absence of a quorum in the history of the MSPB. At the end of this month, the Board could be without any members at all, putting the agency into unchartered territory. This bill is a temporary solution for a problem Congress never anticipated and hope will never happen again.”

The MSPB is an independent agency led by three presidentially-appointed Board members that serves as the guardian of the federal merit system. Currently, the sole Board member is Mark Robbins, a Republican who was confirmed by the Senate in 2012. Robbins’ seven-year term expired on March 1, 2018, but he continues to serve in a holdover capacity which is currently limited by statute to one year.

In 2018, President Trump nominated three candidates for the MSPB — two Republicans and one Democrat — but they were not confirmed by the Senate before the end of the last Congress.

In January 2019, President Trump renominated the three candidates, and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee recently cleared two of them. However, the Senate Committee plans to withhold these two nominations from the Senate floor until the White House names another Republican nominee.

The bill, H.R. 1235, the MSPB Temporary Term Extension Act, is supported by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), the Government Accountability Project (GAP), the Make it Safe Coalition, and the Senior Executives Association (SEA).

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