The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is set to vote on a nominee for the third vacant seat on the MSPB governing board, setting up a potential final confirmation of all three nominees that would enable the board to again begin issuing decisions on appeals.
Nominee B. Chad Bungard, a senior SSA official who had been general counsel at MSPB during the Bush administration, is up for a vote in the committee just a week after his confirmation hearing, a potential sign of a desire to finally resolve the issue of vacancies on the board. The committee had approved two other nominees several months ago but a vote in the full Senate has been delayed until nominees to fill all three positions could be considered together.
The merit board has been empty since March and has lacked a two-member quorum needed to issue decisions since the start of the Trump administration. There is now a backlog exceeding 2,000 appeals from initial decisions of administrative judges who have continued to issue those decisions all the while. Without a quorum the agency also has been unable to issue reports making recommendations on federal personnel policies and practices, although it has continued to put out shorter white papers examining issues and survey results.
Meanwhile, there has been no sign of a move to a floor vote of the nominee to become OPM director, former Capitol Hill official and FLRA member Dale Cabaniss. The committee approved her nomination on a voice vote last month, although after the vote four Democrats on the committee went on the record as opposing her. They did not state a reason although during her confirmation hearing several questioned her about her management of the FLRA.
OPM has had only acting directors for almost all of the last four years, with the current acting director, Margaret Weichert, also the leading advocate for the administration’s plan to move most of the agency’s operations into a new office under GSA while shifting its policy-making role into a new office under OMB. That plan has been very controversial, with the House Appropriations Committee recently approving a bill that would prevent it.