The Trump administration and Congress have been at loggerheads over the fate of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the federal agency that manages 2.1 million government employees throughout the world and makes decisions on issues great and small.
The administration says it will furlough and perhaps lay off 150 OPM employees if Congress doesn’t go along with Trump’s plan to eliminate the agency. DC-area Congressional representatives were quick to pounce on the threat.
“Reports that the Trump Administration has threatened to lay off civilian federal employees at the Office of Personnel Management if Congress doesn’t eliminate the agency are outrageous,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). “Threatening to fire these hardworking Americans because the Administration isn’t getting its way is shameful. The Trump Administration has failed to make the case or provide the authority under which this reorganization can be accomplished.”
The Washington Post reports today that OPM is preparing to send many career employees home without pay on Oct. 1 if the impasse is not resolved by then. Hoyer says that would be irresponsible.
“Threatening to lay off hundreds of hardworking professionals because the Administration’s plan has been rejected in a bipartisan fashion is foolish, petty, and irresponsible. The Trump Administration’s temper tantrum will have real consequences for all Americans and is yet another example of the Administration holding federal employees hostage,” he said.
The Trump administration has argued that OPM is obsolete, out of touch and ineffective.
The Trump plan would break up OPM and move many of its functions into other departments, most notably the General Services Administration (GSA), which manages government real estate.
Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s panel on government operations, says the administration’s threats are “nothing more than a political gambit to give the White House control of our long-standing merit-based civil service system.”
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said the move amounted to “hostage-taking.”
“I have come to expect abuse and horrific maltreatment of the federal workforce from the Trump Administration, but I have never seen anything like this. Threatening to fire or furlough American civil servants unless Congress gives into their demands is beyond the pale. The White House is only resorting to hostage-taking because the Administration could not substantiate the need for this plan before Congress last month, but Congress will not be bullied like this. Let me say this very clearly to the President and his team: this is not the way to get what you want,” Beyer said.
Beyer told Acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert during an Oversight hearing in May that he was “very skeptical” about the idea of trying to solve the problems of a struggling organization by “moving it into a larger bureaucracy.”
Beyer represents nearly 87,000 federal employees, the largest number of any Member of the House of Representatives. The Senate companion version of his legislation to grant back pay to furloughed federal employees affected by the 2018-19 government shutdown was signed into law earlier this year.