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07.16.2018 0

MERIT Act picks up steam by getting a Senate version

By Natalia Castro

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) has been leading the charge for civil service reform in the House for months. Now, members of the Senate have decided to jump on board to give the MERIT Act a real hope of passing before midterms, with Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) introducing companion legislation. For years, federal employees unions have made it impossible to enact common sense reforms that enhance the efficiency and productivity of our federal workforce; but now, change might finally be on the horizon.

Not only did Rep. Loudermilk get a great Senate companion bill, the MERIT Act in the House is gaining steam. Tomorrow there will be a vote on the legislation in the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The vote brings the legislation one step closer to becoming law.

The federal government is historically plagued with ineptitude, stories of poor performing employees keeping their jobs despite corruption, fraud, and abuse over the years.

In 2017, Congress took a large step in passing the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act which increased agency terminations by 26 percent.

But the VA is not the only agency plagued with abuse, that is why Rep. Loudermilk introduced the MERIT Act with the hope of expanding VA reforms to the entire civil service. Considering the VA bill passed with bipartisan support, it is surprising both parties have not rallied behind the MERIT Act in the same way. Until one considers the influence of the federal employees unions.

Public sector unions have been against the MERIT Act and seemingly every other measure which allows management control over their employees. The result over the past 40 years to has been to make it extremely difficult to fire poor performing actors, essentially making the civil service a place for lifetime job security.

Earlier this year, President Trump issued a series of executive orders which have forced federal unions to be more accountable to their members and less reliant on government funds. By limiting the amount of time federal employees can spend on union business, Trump has saved taxpayers an estimated $100 million that would normally flow to unions.

These actions, coupled with the Supreme Court decision Janus v. AFSCME that allowed state and local government employee to opt out of union dues, has established a clear momentum for civil service reform.

Americans for Limited Government also rallied support behind the MERIT Act with a banner that flew over the DC metro area in late June calling upon Congress to “fire the swamp”.

Then, Sen. Perdue announced last week that he has introduced a Senate version of the MERIT Act.

Perdue explained, “Our country is facing a $21 trillion debt crisis, and we simply cannot afford to hold onto bad actors who aren’t doing their jobs. President Trump has called on Congress to clean up government waste. Since he took office, more than 1,550 underperforming bureaucrats have been fired at the VA. It’s time that approach is applied to the entire federal government.”

Rep. Loudermilk commended Perdue in their joint statement, noting, “Unfortunately, many underperforming federal employees feel entitled to their positions and treat them as their right. The solution to this issue is the MERIT Act. I thank my friend and colleague, Senator Perdue, for leading the charge on this important reform.”

While union disempowerment might not be the reason Perdue moved forward with this legislation in the Senate, it is worth noting how much more difficult this initiative would have been without the Trump administration and Supreme Court’s actions to rein in public sector union power.

With big labor losing steam and civil service reform gaining it, there is no reason Congressional representatives on both sides of the aisle cannot move forward with the MERIT Act this summer. Americans want the swamp drained and that can only happen if poor performers are fired.

Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning has called upon Senators to join Senator Perdue in this effort by cosponsoring the MERIT Act. This summer can finally be the summer for civil service reform, but Congress must act to get this on the floor and get it passed.

Natalia Castro is the Public Outreach Coordinator for Americans for Limited Government.

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