House Republicans just brought back the Holman Rule for another year

This story has been updated Tuesday, March 20, at 5:30 p.m. to reflect House’s final decision to re-up the Holman Rule.

House Republicans Tuesday afternoon reinstated the “Holman Rule,” a little-known provision that allows lawmakers to make changes to a federal employee’s salary, for another year.

In devising the floor rules for debate on two seemingly unrelated House bills on financial services and health policy, lawmakers slipped in a provision that would extend the Holman Rule through the end of the 115th Congress.

Specifically, the Holman Rule lets Congress bring an amendment on an appropriations bill to the House floor that may “retrench” agency spending, reduce the number of federal employees in a particular agency or cut the salary or “compensation of any person paid out of the Treasury of the United States.”

The House added the Holman Rule last January to its rules package for the 115th Congress but for the first session only. In order to use the rule again during this second session, House lawmakers will have to

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) in a statement described the rule as a “backdoor way” to “dismantle the  federal workforce and carry out political vendettas at the expense of career civil servants.”

House lawmakers attempted to use the Holman Rule last summer, when several members, including Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Government Operations subcommittee, offered an amendment targeting 89 employees at the Congressional Budget Office.

The amendment ultimately failed, but it was the first time lawmakers attempted to use the rule since the House reinstated it in January 2017.

The Holman Rule essentially lets House lawmakers make changes to a federal employee’s salary or position without input from the appropriations committee. Members can debate these amendments on the House floor for a limited time.

Appropriations committees typically call on agency leaders to testify about their organization’s priorities, projects and other matters in the beginning of the budget and appropriations process. But once a member introduces an amendment to an appropriations bill on the House floor, the affected agency or individual won’t have a chance to officially respond before Congress.

The House only attempted to use this rule sparingly in recent history. The Holman Rule was last included during a congressional session in 1983. The rule itself dates back to 1876 and has been a part of the rules package on occasion since then.

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