Biden at last announces two MSPB nominees, enough to restore a quorum

President Joe Biden has named a second person to fill vacant seats at the Merit Systems Protection Board, which has lacked a quorum for more than four years.

Biden on Wednesday tapped Raymond Limon, the current chief human capital officer at the Interior Department, as his pick to be MSPB vice chairman.

Limon is career member of the Senior Executive Service and should be familiar to many in the federal community. Before joining Interior, Limon led the State Department’s civil service HR management office and served as chief human capital officer for the Corporation for National and Community Service, also known as AmeriCorps.

He was also an attorney at the Office of Personnel Management’s general counsel and oversaw the governmentwide personnel system for administrative law judges.

Biden announced federal employment attorney Cathy Harris as his pick to lead the MSPB nearly two months ago.

Harris is the co-manager of Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris, where she leads the firm’s sexual harassment and LGBT sections. She’s practiced employment law for more than two decades and has experience representing federal employees individually and in class action lawsuits. Harris previously served as an assistant district attorney for the New York County District Attorney’s Office and was an adjunct professor for the George Washington University Law School.

With the nominations of both Harris and Limon, it’s the first time in years that federal employees, whistleblowers and others can see a path forward for the MSPB, which was almost non-functional for the entirety of the Trump administration and first six months of the Biden presidency.

It’s customary for Democratic administrations to name two Democrats and one Republican to fill the three seats at the MSPB, and the Senate often considers the nominees as a package.

The White House hasn’t yet announced a third nominee to fill the board, and Senate Republicans may want to see the Biden administration nominate another person before considering the MSPB appointees.

The MSPB only needs two Senate-confirmed board members to restore a quorum.

The MSPB hasn’t had a single board member for more than two years. The board’s vacancies are historic, leaving both employees and agencies in limbo while they wait for a functional board to consider their appeals. The situation has also prompted rare bipartisan concern from House members.

There were 3,290 pending petitions for review at the MSPB at the end of May, according to the agency’s data.

The backlog creates hardships for federal employees who have been waiting years for justice on their cases, but it may also generate financial expenses for agencies. Inevitably, the board — whenever it has Senate confirmed members — will reinstate federal employees to their previous jobs, and agencies will owe them back pay.

One former MSPB counsel estimated agencies could owe at least $60 million in back pay, a total that will only grow larger depending on the time it takes for the White House to nominate and the Senate to confirm new board members.

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