The key House committee overseeing federal workplace and benefits matters has signaled the change of direction now that it is under Democratic leadership, beginning with a name change to the Oversight and Reform Committee, dropping “Government” before Reform to de-emphasize the prior focus on examining agency operations that often centered on the performance and conduct of career federal employees.
New chairman Elijah Cummings of Maryland has reinforced that signal by the topics of the first hearings to be held. The first will be on a Democratic leadership bill (HR-1) focusing on election security and ethics for high-level government officials—in contrast to the panel’s prior focus on rank and file employees. The second will call President Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to testify.
Also on the early schedule is examination of increasing prescription drug prices in general, not focusing specifically on the FEHB program.
Those hearings are to follow an organization meeting January 29 at which subcommittee assignments are to be finalized. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who consistently takes positions mirroring those of federal employee unions, is in line to take over the subcommittee on federal workforce policies.
Meanwhile, the House likely will vote soon on measures Cummings has sponsored which passed the House in the prior Congress, one to broaden anti-discrimination protections and the other to extend protections to unpaid interns in federal agencies, HR-135 and -136.