12.12.2018 0

Last chance to drain the swamp with the MERIT Act


By Natalia Castro

This month Congress will make critical decisions as to how to fund our government for the next year. This will be the last action the Republican majority makes before the Pelosi-led House does everything in their power to obstruct the Trump agenda starting in January, including presumably trying to remove him from office. It is safe to say the legislative branch will not be working efficiently or effectively in the next year, aside from judicial confirmations and treaty ratifications, but there is still hope for the executive branch. If Congress attaches the House Oversight and Government Reform language of the MERIT Act as a policy rider to the upcoming funding bill, at least eight agencies in the federal government will continue implementing the Trump agenda as they are designed to.

The federal civil service currently encourages lazy, incompetent, and recalcitrant employees.

The dismissal process for federal employees is so long and complex it is nearly impossible for managers to remove a poor performer. Instead, they often opt to simply work around the employee hoping more committed workers will pick up the slack. This culture of accepting bad behavior as irremovable causes the public service to have a dismissal for cause rate of only 0.53 percent.

The MERIT Act works to empower managers with the ability to remove poor performers, while still maintaining due process protections. The MERIT Act would:

  • Increase agency management’s power to remove poor employees;
  • Expedite timelines; 7 – 21 days’ notice of action; simple presentation of cause with employees given opportunity to respond;
  • Cap appeal decision time at 30 days, after which the dismissal is upheld, unless declared otherwise;
  • Require that if deadlines are not met, MSPB must report to Congress and the oversight committees in the House and Senate and explain non-compliance; and
  • Uphold whistleblower protections.

With expedited removal timelines and whistleblower protections, agency leadership will be able to root out bad actors from the administration.

When nearly identical reforms were implemented at the Department of Veterans Affairs via the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, it increased the agencies terminations for cause by 26 percent initially.

Every agency deserves the chance to restore accountability to their office. Unfortunately, that would require the MERIT Act to pass through Congress. With only weeks left in this session and Nancy Pelosi leading House Democrats in the New Year, it is unlikely this will occur.

But by placing the MERIT Act language on the upcoming appropriations legislation, at least eight agencies will be able to drain the swamp they swell in.

Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning explained in a press release, “By attaching a rider to the December federal government spending bill, Congress could make it easier to fire bad federal employees while preserving due process… If the MERIT Act passes now as a budget rider, the GOP will have at least created an opportunity to drain the swamp rather than wallowing in it for the eight additional Cabinet level agencies that would be covered.”

Considering Project Veritas videos uncovered multiple federal employees violating the Hatch Act by advocating for partisan politics while working for the federal government, it is more important now than ever that agency leaders have a way to remove bad actors.

The videos released show multiple federal employees purposefully neglecting or obstructing elements of their job in order to prevent the Trump agenda from being implemented.

The MERIT Act has become a necessity to ensure the executive branch can enforce the law. It is clear Congress will be a battleground riddled with gridlock in the next year, but the President’s agencies should not be. The MERIT Act is necessary for ensuring federal government employees are not wasting taxpayer money in the New Year. Congress must act now to include the MERIT Act language in the upcoming spending bill so at least some of our federal government can be accountable to the people.

Natalia Castro is a contributing editor and a policy analyst at Americans for Limited Government.

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