Fedweek

On worksite matters, House Republicans likely will press the administration on having more federal employees working onsite and for more often. Image: JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Republicans took the House on Wednesday with an election victory in California delivering a 218 seat majority, and setting the stage for partisan clashes on a range federal workplace matters over the next two years.

Even before the elections, Republicans had said for example that they will focus in 2023 on restricting federal spending, including by using the threat of government shutdowns and the need to raise the federal debt ceiling as leverage. Control of the House gives them a stronger platform to do so because they now control the committee and floor agendas, even though their majority will be slim.

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One early move likely will be a bid to repeal the increase in IRS funding contained in the Inflation Reduction Act enacted during the summer along party lines. That funding is designated for purposes including IT improvements and hiring mainly to keep up with attrition over the next 10 years, but many Republicans campaigned on assertions that the agency will double in size and concentrate its enforcement efforts on middle and lower-income taxpayers.

However, prospects for that repeal would be dim, given that with Democrats remain in charge in the Senate and White House.

Also already signaled by Republicans are proposals on federal employee benefits when the next budget cycle gets under way early next year. House Budget Committee Republicans have said they will again advocate changes such as requiring a higher contribution toward retirement for FERS employees and basing new annuities on the highest five consecutive years of salary rather than the highest three.

Other provisions they have mentioned include reducing retirement COLAs; eliminating an annuity supplement for FERS retirees duplicates Social Security benefits until they reach age 62 and can claim those benefits; reducing the interest paid by the TSP’s government securities G fund, the program’s largest; and shifting more of the cost of FEHB insurance onto enrollees.

Those proposals have been offered repeatedly over the years only to be blocked by Democrats friendly to federal employee interests and would face the same opposition in the new Congress.

On worksite matters, House Republicans likely will press the administration on having more federal employees working onsite and for more often, especially in public-facing agencies such as the VA, SSA and IRS. Other potential proposals could seek to: shift some agency operations, and therefore their employees, out of the national capital area; bar enforcement of the Coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal employees among others; limit the scope of bargaining and official time for union officials; and put in law Trump administration workplace orders that Biden revoked through his own orders.

All of those would face steep odds against enactment, as well. However, Republican control of the House would mean the same for proposals from Democrats, for example to enhance inflation adjustments for FERS retirees and repeal several Social Security offsets against CSRS benefits, to expand leave benefits, and to lock in higher levels of telework.

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House Republicans meanwhile have said they would shift the oversight focus of the key Oversight and Reform Committee to issues including immigration enforcement; the response to the pandemic, including spending of relief money; the 2021 withdrawal of military and other personnel from Afghanistan; financial issues involving Biden’s son Hunter; and more.

Committee assignments will be made early in the new year. Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, currently the ranking Republican, almost certainly will take over chairmanship of that committee. However, the ranking Republican on the government management subcommittee, Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, will not be in the new Congress; he ran instead for secretary of state there and lost during the primaries.

The full committee’s current chair, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., also will not return, having lost in the primaries after redistricting. The current chairman of the government management subcommittee, Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., likely will remain as ranking Democrat at least on the subcommittee and possibly on the full committee.

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See also,

FEHB: Federal Benefits Fast Facts

FEHB Open Season Ahead – Time to Shop

Watch for ‘Significant’ FEHB Plan Changes, OPM Says

Enrollee Share of FEHB Premiums to Rise 8.7 Percent on Average for 2023

FERS Retirement Planning Bundle: 2022 FERS Guide & TSP Handbook