Reinstatement of the Holman Rule


Last week, the House of Representatives formally voted on its rules of procedure for the new Congress (2017-2018). As the majority party, the House Republican conference met on Monday evening to deliberate over and to finalize the rules package that was voted on late last week by the whole House. NTEU opposed the package. Nevertheless, it passed by a vote of 234 to 193.

This package included a notable change for appropriations measures that affects federal agencies and federal employees. Under the Holman Rule, which originated in 1876 and was last abandoned in 1983, amendments would be allowed on appropriations measures that are legislative in nature (generally banned) and which could include reducing the number of federal employee positions at agencies, as well as to reduce federal employee salaries and compensation.

“Reinstating the ‘Holman Rule’ would make it easier for the Majority to circumvent the current legislative process in order to fire or cut the pay of federal employees.  It undermines civil service protections; it goes back to the 19th century,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) said on the House floor during debate on the rules change. “Republicans have consistently made our hardworking federal employees scapegoats, in my opinion, for lack of performance of the federal government itself, and this rule change will enable them to make short-sighted and ideologically driven changes to our nation's civil service,” Hoyer stated.

Congressmen Tom Cole (OK) and Rob Bishop (UT), senior members of the Republican caucus, offered an amendment on Monday evening to strike the Holman Rule from the draft Rules Package owing to their concern for random cuts to the federal workforce, and for the overall authorization and appropriations processes in the House. NTEU strongly supported this amendment, and contacted Republican offices to express support for the Cole-Bishop amendment. However, the Cole-Bishop amendment failed on a voice vote, meaning the Holman Rule is now part of the official Rules Package that passed on the House floor last week. Washington area legislators Steny Hoyer (MD), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Gerry Connolly (VA), Don Beyer (VA), and John Delaney (MD) issued this press statement stating their strong opposition to this change.

Under the adopted rules, the Holman Rule is to be in place for calendar year 2017, with House leadership calling it a “pilot program.”  It is important to note that this rule change is limited to the House, and that many additional legislative actions, including conferencing with Senate-passed appropriations measures, are required before a bill becomes law.