“Drain the swamp” was one of the catchphrases that spurred now-President Donald Trump’s unlikely run to the White House in 2016. Three years into his first term and Washington D.C. still feels a bit swampy, but if a pair of Georgia legislators have their say, that will change.
U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) this month reintroduced H.R. 3348, the Modern Employment Reform, Improvement, and Transformation (MERIT) Act, which seeks to make it easier to get rid of entrenched federal employees, as of now a tall task that has contributed heavily to the “swamp” moniker.
The federal government currently has close to three million employees, and under current rules it can take more than a year remove or fire an underperforming worker. In 2017 Trump signed the Veterans Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, a similar piece of legislation that led to the removal of nearly 1,500 underperforming employees and has been lauded for its effects on the VA.
“Working for the United States federal government is an honor and privilege, and most federal employees are dedicated to serving the American people. Unfortunately, some federal employees have learned they can take advantage of this antiquated system and are using their positions for personal gain, or are consistently derelict in their duties. The current federal employment system unfairly protects these bad actors from dismissal, which allows them to game the system without fear of losing their jobs,” said Loudermilk of the bill. “The MERIT Act modernizes the federal employment system by instituting a more streamlined system of dismissal – much like what is used in the private sector. This system provides agency heads with the ability to remove underperforming or bad employees while ensuring high performing employees are in place to serve the American people.”
U.S. Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) introduced companion legislation in the Senate and echoed Loudermilk’s sentiments:
“Right now, it can take more than a year to fire or replace a civil service employee, even for poor performance or misconduct. With a $22 trillion debt crisis, we cannot afford to hold onto bureaucrats who aren’t doing their jobs. Since President Trump took office, more than 4,300 bad actors have been fired, demoted, or suspended at the VA. It’s time to expand those efforts and address problems across the entire federal government.”
A cavalcade of Conservative groups have praised the legislation, with Rick Manning, President, Americans for Limited Government calling it a “necessary first step toward ending the politicization of the federal civil service workforce.”
The legislation is opposed by many Washington Democrats, who have said that it could unduly punish whistleblowers and give too much power to high level officials at the expense of lower level workers.