House Opposes Trump on Base Closings, A-76

The House has taken positions opposite to that of the Trump administration on two key federal workforce issues, DoD base closings and Circular A-76 contracting out.

The House considered those issues during voting on an appropriations bill (HR-3219) that combines four of the regular spending bills for the upcoming fiscal year—those for DoD, VA, Energy and DHS—into one. The House accepted by voice vote an amendment to deny the White House’s request for a base realignment and closure round, which would occur in 2021 but with preliminary work needing to start much sooner. A separate authorization bill the House passed earlier also would deny the request; during voting on that bill the House voted down an amendment to allow a round of closings. The vote on the appropriations bill amounted to underscoring the point.

Also, the House voted 253-172 to prevent agencies from comparing in-house costs to private sector bids under the A-76 process, one that in the past has resulted in the privatization of many thousands of federal jobs. However, there has been a moratorium against such studies since late in the Bush administration due to concerns about loss of expertise and cost overruns after work has been contracted out.

The Trump administration had proposed reinstating the A-76 process as a way for agencies to comply with its directive to restructure for greater efficiency. The House Appropriations Committee recently approved a bill that by remaining silent would allow the current ban to lapse; in recent years the Senate counterpart bill has favored continuing the ban and the House later agreed. The vote on the combined bill signals that the House wants to keep the ban in place.

Also rejected was the first proposed use of the “Holman Rule” since House revived it earlier this year; that rule allows a House member to propose cutting a federal office or even an individual’s salary. An attempt to close the office within CBO that does cost estimates and transfer its responsibilities elsewhere in that agency—following disputes over estimates of the impact of Republican-sponsored health insurance reform bills—was defeated on a 309-116 vote.

The appropriations measure could be used as the basis for resolving the need to renew agency funding starting October 1, although for now it will serve mostly as a placeholder. Much work remains to be done on agency funding for the upcoming fiscal year, and the bill as written would trigger “sequestration” cuts in defense accounts because the defense spending level exceeds the amount in a previous law. The Senate will not vote on that measure or any other appropriations bills until after Labor Day.