Policy riders to watch as House appropriators mark up 2025 spending bills

The House’s financial services and general government 2025 spending bill has provisions that could impact the TSP, and push OMB and GSA for more telework data...

House appropriators plan to mark up a range of government spending legislation Thursday afternoon, which in part look to cut fiscal 2025 spending in the financial services and general government bill 20% below the Biden administration’s budget request and 10% below the 2024 allocation.

But beyond hammering out agency budgets for next year, the GOP-led House Appropriations Committee has tacked on several policy riders that could impact federal employees and retirees in other ways as well.

One policy rider included in the committee’s report language, for instance, would bar any investments through the Thrift Savings Plan that are based on environmental, social or governance (ESG) criteria.

House Republicans also tried last budget cycle to include the “No ESG in the TSP” policy rider in the spending legislation, but it ultimately did not end up in the final appropriations package.

The launch of the voluntary TSP mutual fund window in June 2022 brought more than 5,000 new mutual fund options to TSP participants who choose to enroll in the window and pay a fee for the service. But the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board has said if an anti-ESG policy is enacted, it would bring the TSP’s new mutual fund window to an early demise.

Keeping track of 5,000 mutual funds would become too burdensome and open FRTIB to potential legal exposure, the board has said.

“There is no practical, cost-efficient way to monitor each of the roughly 5,000 individual mutual funds’ holdings,” FRTIB Director of External Affairs Kim Weaver said in 2023.

FRTIB has publicly opposed the provisions that aim to bar ESG investments. Weaver has also said there would be ripple effects from the provision, if it’s enacted. It would cost the TSP additional money to wind down the mutual fund window, and TSP participants may be exposed to potential financial losses if they had to transfer their investments back to the main TSP funds.

Appropriations committee members plan to mark up the financial services and general government 2025 spending bill, as well as several others, on Thursday afternoon. Here are some of the other policy riders federal employees should pay attention to:

Telework, office space in 2025 spending bill

In the report language, committee members also noted previous and upcoming requirements for the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration to report to Congress on federal telework and office space.

In the 2024 enacted appropriations package, lawmakers included a now-approaching deadline for OMB to share all agencies’ work environment plans with Congress. Those plans, which stem from the initial return-to-office memo in April 2023, detail agencies’ recent telework policy changes.

OMB’s deadline to submit all agencies’ return-to-office plans to Congress is coming up in late June.

“The committee looks forward to receiving the report from OMB on governmentwide telework,” House appropriators wrote in the committee’s report. “The committee [also] expects agencies under the jurisdiction of the subcommittee to reduce their office footprint if their average office space utilization rate is less than 60%, based on a benchmark of 150 usable square feet per person.”

At the same time, the committee said GSA has not yet provided its required report on how agencies can reduce office space requirements based on lessons learned from using telework during the COVID–19 pandemic.

The federal footprint has been steadily declining, but agencies still holding onto excess and underutilized office space is a main reason the Government Accountability Office has kept federal real property management on its High-Risk List for over 20 years.

In the 2024 spending package, Congress called on all agencies with an office space utilization rate of less than 60% to submit a description of their current efforts to reduce their physical footprint, the total office space costs, the average utilization rate and the estimated cost of underutilized space.

If enacted, the 2025 spending bill from House appropriators would also give GSA and OMB a new 180-day deadline to offer further data and recommendations on how to best consolidate federal office space, while disposing of unneeded federal real estate.

Continuing a few longstanding provisions

In addition to the slate of new policy riders, House appropriators are also looking to maintain numerous provisions that have been around for years, and in some cases decades. Many of those provisions have become practically standard in spending bills each fiscal year.

For example, one continued provision requires agencies to pay OPM a fee for processing retirement claims for employees who separate early from federal service.

Another would continue to direct agency employees to use official time — or time spent working on union-related activities while on the job — in “an honest effort to perform official duties,” the committee report language said.

Additionally, a provision often referred to as the Hyde amendment would maintain the current ban on any government funding from going toward abortions through the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program.

IRS pilot, FBI headquarters and more

The full appropriations committee also maintained several provisions from the subcommittee’s initial 2025 spending and policy proposals earlier this month.

Notably, the committee plans to implement steep spending cuts for the IRS, and aims to completely defund IRS’ free Direct File platform.

The lawmakers are also looking to decline a $3.5 billion request for construction on the new FBI headquarters building during 2025. The appropriations bill would also withhold all current funds allocated for the GSA construction project.

Democratic committee members, unsurprisingly, have come out in strong opposition to the spending cuts and many of the policy riders. Some lawmakers said they’re concerned about the ability of several relatively small agencies to handle large budget cuts. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) warned last week that the House GOP bill would force agencies to implement staff reductions to make ends meet.

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