On March 20, the House of Representatives decided to continue the so-called “Holman rule” through the end of the current Congress. The rule gives Congress the power to target individual federal workers for pay cuts or to gut specific agency programs through lack of funding.
The rule was originally passed in 1876 and removed in 1983. However, it was reinstated in this Congress’s Rules for the House — although it was only meant to be applied to the first session. Now it has been continued indefinitely. It is quite controversial.
Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia called the Holman rule “a cynical and dangerous attack on federal workers that allows members of Congress to reduce the salaries of federal employees.”
“This archaic tool, also known as the Armageddon Rule,” he added, “is nothing more than a backdoor way for Republicans to dismantle the federal workforce and carry out political vendettas at the expense of career civil servants.”
Those in favor of the rule consider it an important part of Congress’s “power of the purse” and are quite serious about using it. Last July, according to the Federal Times, House Freedom Caucus members used the rule in an effort to zero-out the Congressional Budget Office’s budget analysis division. That would have cost 89 jobs. The effort was defeated on a bipartisan basis, but similar efforts could be tried again.
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) criticized the way the rule was passed, without House members being allowed to make amendments. Hastings also criticized those involved in the reinstatement as planning to intentionally scapegoat federal workers.
We will simply have to wait and see whether and how often the Holman rule is used. If it is used to target individual federal employees, those targeted may have recourse — especially if the targeting is done for improper reasons.
If you are targeted, you need to contact a federal employment law attorney right away to protect your rights and career.