By putting off the annual late-September budget battles by continuing agency spending authority through early December, political leaders have given themselves time to turn their attention to several pending federal employee-related issues.
One issue in which agreement and final action could be easiest to achieve involves TSP withdrawal policies. Companion bills that have passed the committee level in both the House and Senate allow multiple “age-based” withdrawals after turning age 59 ½ while still employed (currently only one is allowed); to allow multiple partial withdrawals after separation (currently only one is allowed and none if an age-based withdrawal was taken while employed); and allow those taking “substantially equal” withdrawals to choose quarterly or annual payouts as well as monthly, change the amount or stop them at any time, or use the money remaining after such payments have started to buy an annuity or to take a lump-sum payment instead. The bipartisan proposal is the type of measure that can be called up quickly and pass using short-cut procedures.
The two chambers meanwhile must sort out differences on the differing versions of the annual DoD authorization bill that they have passed. One of the potentially most divisive issues in the federal workplace areas, a planned Senate amendment to authorize a new round of base closings and realignments, was set aside. However, the Senate did add language not in the House version to strengthen whistleblower protections, require discipline of managers who take retaliation–mandatory discipline currently applies only at the VA–and give the Office of Special Counsel enhanced powers to investigate whistleblower retaliation complaints. Neither chamber meanwhile addressed the proposal to increase the buyout maximum to $40,000 government-wide, but the House did act to extend that higher amount at DoD, which could be used as the basis for a broader authority.
Also before Congress, although only the Senate, is the nomination of Jeff Tien Han Pon to be OPM director; he is a veteran HR official who once was a deputy at OPM. That agency has not had a confirmed director in more than two years following the resignation of Katherine Archuleta in the wake of the hacking of employee personnel files and background investigation records. The Government Managers Coalition, consisting of professional organizations of federal managers and executives, has urged the Senate to confirm him. In contrast to their immediate opposition to the prior nominee, unions so far have been neutral.