Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Senate Committee Advances Gov Reorg Act

Today, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs (HSGAC) marked up the Reforming Government Act of 2018 (S.3137) in addition to a number of pieces of legislation. This bill would give the President and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) increased authority to reorganize the government, including consolidating, transferring, creating or outright abolishing agencies altogether. According to the legislation, any plans would need to be approved by Congress within 90 days, or they will not advance.

Much of the business meeting focused on concerns with the fast-tracking of legislation. “Fast-tracking” refers to a legislative procedure that allows defined legislation to proceed straight to the floor without committee consideration and with little opportunities to amend the language. As written, S. 3137 requires a 51 vote majority, which Senate Democrats noted along with the 90-day window, would allow for government reorganization proposals to advance without the need for bipartisan support.

Back in June, OMB released its government reorganization and restructure plan titled “Delivery Government Solutions in the 21st Century." Along other ill-conceived moves to “reorganize” the federal government, it calls for the potential privatization of the U.S. Postal Service. Were this bill to advance as written, it would broadly increase powers to the Executive Branch and allow for one party to reform the government as it so chooses, even so far as to privatize or eliminate agencies that do not conform to an Administration’s desires of the day.

“A 60-vote margin requires bipartisanship. Our founding fathers decided they wanted us to compromise by the way they set this thing up, and I’m a big believer that compromise is the strength of the Senate, not the weakness,” said Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-MO). “We are headed down a dangerous path with 51 votes. I feel strongly that this is not the right thing to do. It’s incredibly premature and has the potential for being very partisan.”

In order to address the issue, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced an amendment that would require any such proposal to receive at least five votes from the minority party, or 60 votes for it to be fast-tracked. Heitkamp argued this would ensure a bipartisan approach to government reform and reorganization. Sen. Heitkamp’s amendment was received favorably and S. 3137 advanced through committee with full support.

While the amendment would make it harder for one party to push through reorganization plans, it effectively allows for full federal reform and reorganization without enough opportunity to provide input and no opportunity for the minority party to filibuster. Of note, this legislation as amended could still allow for the reorganization or privatization of the U.S. Postal Service with little chance of stopping it, should 56 votes be found.

Whether S. 3137 as amended will receive a vote on the floor is yet to be determined, but NALC opposes this legislation as amended and will continue to monitor its progression as well as the progression of its companion bill in the House (H.R.6787).

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