By Natalia Castro
Labor Day – coming up on September 3rd – presents a pivotal opportunity for Members of Congress. As members of the House return from recess and just eight weeks before midterms, representatives can show their support for American workers by passing bipartisan civil service reform. In the first year of this Congress, passing bipartisan Veterans Affairs legislation did not just rally public support; it improved the agency significantly. Passing the MERIT Act can do the same for the rest of the federal workforce, setting Congress on a strong trajectory for the second half of Trump’s first term.
The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act passed with such overwhelming support it only required a voice vote in the Senate. In the House, it passed 368-55. Following the passage of this legislation, which provides management with expedited removal processes for poor performing employees, firings within the agency rose by 26 percent.
This VA reform represented a bipartisan achievement that was praised across the aisle.
Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester helped push the bill alongside Florida Republican Marco Rubio.
At the time, Tester explained, “This bill will crack down on bad employees who jeopardize veterans’ health care while also protecting the hardworking folks who dedicate their careers to those who served.”
Democratic Representative from Minnesota, Tim Walz, noted, “We applaud our colleagues in the Senate for their bipartisan effort to give the VA Secretary the tools they need to hold bad employees accountable and for doing so in a way that maintains constitutionally mandated workplace protections that help shield good employees and whistleblowers from retaliation.”
Across the board, Congressional members agreed to basic reforms such as expedited removal timelines, caps on decision times, and protections for whistleblowers improve the ability for managers to remove poor performers and protect good employees.
Currently, the federal public sector retains a termination rate of less than one percent. Not only is this harmful to good employees, but it also wastes taxpayers’ funds and fuels abuse throughout the civil service.
Every federal department and agency deserves a bipartisan effort to give their Secretary the tools to hold bad employees accountable. The MERIT Act introduced in the House by Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) and in the Senate by Senator David Perdue (R-Ga.) expands the reforms of the VA legislation to the rest of the federal government agencies and departments.
As Labor Day approaches, representatives must rally together as they did a year ago to support this common-sense civil service reform. Democrats should be as excited as they were a year ago to pass the VA reform, anything else is partisan politics. Representatives must prove they support America’s workers and end the 115th Congress on a strong note.
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Natalia Castro is the Public Outreach Coordinator at Americans for Limited Government.