Fedweek

A bipartisan group of a dozen senators has sent what amounts to an assertion of congressional prerogative over potential reorganizations of federal agencies, one of the Trump administration’s stated priorities although one that remains largely undefined.

Their concern addresses one of the few agencies to make its plans explicit, the FLRA, which has announced plans to close two of its seven regional offices, in Boston and Dallas. “Closing regional offices would place FLRA staff farther away from those who rely on their services. Additional harm to the rights of federal employees would likely be compounded by agency efforts to reduce funding for staff travel in order to conduct elections, representational hearings, onsite unfair labor practice investigations, and other essential work,” a letter to the FLRA said.

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With implications reaching beyond that one agency, though, the letter said that under the two-year budget agreement reached in March, such actions are “prohibited unless approved by Congress following detailed reprogramming reporting by the agency.”

The senators pointed out that the law bars spending to “increase, eliminate, or reduce funding for a program, project or activity … until such proposed change is subsequently enacted in an appropriation act, or unless such change is made pursuant to the reprogramming or transfer provisions” of an enacted law.

Said the letter, “With a two-year budget agreement now in place, federal agencies should focus on delivering the most effective services for their constituencies rather than harmful cuts that will reduce responsiveness.” The senators urged the FLRA to stop planning and execution of the announced closures “and instead allow the Appropriations Committees to review and approve any plans for reorganization.”

The planned closures arose at a recent House Appropriations Committee hearing where OMB director Mick Mulvaney questioned whether closing offices would amount to a reorganization under the budget agreement. Employee unions who also are opposing the FLRA office closings argue that it would, since affected employees would be moved elsewhere.