Workforce

MSPB to close 2018 without a quorum

people standing on keyboard (Who is Danny/Shutterstock.com) 

After going nearly all of 2017 without a quorum, the Merit Systems Protection Board will likely not be able to address its growing backlog of nearly 1,600 cases this year.

Andrew Maunz's nomination to serve as vice chairman of MSPB failed to advance the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee by a seven-to-seven margin, with six Democrats and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ken.) voting against the nomination.

Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) recessed after Maunz was voted down without holding votes on the other two nominees, Dennis Kirk, proposed for chairman, and Julia Clark as a board member.

The board requires at least two members to vote on cases, so the stalemate extends the board's longest-ever stretch without a quorum.

"Unless you can talk to Sen. Paul and change his mind, or one of the Democrats," Johnson said.

There is also union opposition to the nominations of Maunz and Kirk. In a letter to the committee, 11 unions raised concerns about the federal labor relations experience of both Maunz and Kirk, as well as Kirk's experience representing Russian firms.

MSPB's board serves as an independent body that reviews federal workforce merit principles and adjudicates appeals to protect civil servants from political interference, cronyism and discrimination. The board has been unable to issue decisions that require a vote since Jan. 7, 2017.

As of Oct. 31, the board has a backlog of 1,590 cases, almost all of which have built up since January 2017. Currently, the board has one member, Mark Robbins. Robbins' term expired March 1, and he is serving in a one-year statutory carryover.

As to why he chose not to hold a vote to at least give the MSPB a quorum, Johnson said, "these types of boards, you want to have a partisan majority in favor of the president's policies, and without moving all three, that wouldn't be the case."

Jeff Neal, senior vice-president of the management consulting firm ICF and longtime veteran of the federal workforce, said, "I would have assumed you would want a majority in favor of enforcing federal law with respect to employee adverse actions and other cases heard by the board."

Johnson also said he expects the committee to take on a number of bills in the weeks before year's end, adding that his and Sen. James Lankford's (R-Okla.) bill to expand the executive branch's authority in reorganizing the federal government is not one of them.

"That probably doesn't have a real strong possibility," he said. "At this point in time in legislation, you're going to have to obtain unanimous consent. And so any piece legislation where you can't obtain that doesn't have much of a chance."

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a former FCW staff writer.

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