Budget measures being drafted in the House likely are laying the groundwork for showdowns with the Trump administration over several of its major priorities for the federal workplace, reorganizing agencies and restricting the union role.
The annual spending measures being written in the Appropriations Committee are another sign of the change of direction in that chamber now that it is under Democratic control. However, the administration almost certainly will oppose provisions restricting its plans, setting up a potential deadlock on those bills, which are needed to keep agencies funded in the new fiscal year starting October 1.
The committee-approved bill covering Labor, HHS and related agencies, for example, says the panel “strongly supports the rights of federal employees to bargain collectively” and that three executive orders issued a year ago would “undermine those rights, which is why a federal court invalidated many provisions of those executive orders and enjoined federal agencies from implementing them.” That court decision, which is under appeal, blocked the major provisions but left others in place.
The bill further directs the SSA to return to the bargaining table with the AFGE union over issues that have not been declared at an impasse and “to present proposals that do not mirror district court discredited provisions of the aforementioned executive orders” and to go to mediation if the parties deadlock over them.
That bill meanwhile would strip the HHS of authority to reorganize offices unless the reorganization proposal is included in the President’s budget request, calling “misguided” a plan to merge some offices under the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health and eliminate others.
Similarly, the bill covering the State Department and related agencies as written by a subcommittee bars any reorganization or downsizing costing $1 million or more without a detailed prior notice to Congress.
Other bills still in the early stages could take similar actions against reorganization plans at agencies including OPM, whose background investigations unit already is on its way to DoD with much of the rest intended to go to GSA; Interior, which wants to consolidate the regional structure of most of its subcomponents into 12 new standard regions; and Agriculture, which wants to move two of its research agencies out of the national capital area to locations that haven’t yet been selected. Employees of one, the Economic Research Service, recently voted to unionize as part of the AFGE union; a unionization vote is pending at the other, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.