Bill Passes House to Block Performance Awards for Many Senior Execs

An appropriations bill passed by the House contains an amendment that would ban performance bonus payments for many senior executives.

An appropriations bill (H.R. 5485) has passed the House that covers multiple federal agencies. There are a number of amendments in the bill that would impact federal employees, including one that, if it becomes law, will block bonuses for senior career appointees in the agencies covered by the bill.

The Interim President of the Senior Executives Association (SEA), Jason Briefel, noted that this change that would impact the senior executive service (SES) was added at the last minute and the SEA did not have an opportunity to weigh in on the amendment. He did express confidence that they will be able work on this bill when it is in the Senate and the provision impacting bonus payments for the SES is unlikely to move forward.

A press release was issued entitled “House Passes Gosar Amendment Blocking Bonuses for IRS and Other Federal Bureaucrats.” The press release states that Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released (this) statement after successfully passing an amendment on the House floor blocking bonuses for senior career appointees at the IRS and other federal agencies that receive funding through H.R. 5485, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017….”

The observation of the SEA that this was a last minute change is certainly correct. A search of the version of H.R. 5485 posted on several sites does not reveal language that would accomplish the blocking of bonuses for senior career appointees in all of the federal agencies covered by the bill. The language of the bill that is available only refers to the Internal Revenue Service and not all other agencies.

The reason is because a number of amendments were passed in July. The bill that contains the amendments is not yet available because it is so recent.

A search of the amendments reveals this amendment which passed the House on July 7th and which was published in the Congressional Record Online.

None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to pay a performance award under section 5384 of title 5, United States Code, to any career appointee within the Senior Executive Service.

In discussion the amendments, Congressman Gosar opened his remarks on the amendment (Amendment 30) with the following statement:

…I rise to offer a commonsense amendment with the intent of prohibiting the use of funds in this act to pay a performance award to any senior executive employee within the IRS.

Under the direction of Commissioner John Koskinen, IRS officials have led a coordinated effort to hide the truth about this IRS’ targeting of innocent Americans based on their political beliefs. Rather than cleaning up this rogue agency, Koskinen has doubled down on the agency’s lawlessness and political culture.”

Another Congressman (Jose Serrano, D-NY) spoke up and noted:

“I rise to oppose the amendment. This amendment would prevent agencies under this bill from giving employees in the Senior Executive Service bonuses. This seems to be aimed at the IRS since the summary on the Rules Committee Web site emphasizes the IRS, but it would have the same effect across the board.”

But, apparently, the language of the amendment was intentionally worded to be more comprehensive so it included agencies other than the IRS or, thinking quickly on his feet, Congressman Gosar liked the language as it had been written. His rebuttal to Congressman Serrano:

“If you disagree with my amendment and feel that it will have unintended consequences, name the agencies in the bill that you think should be allowed to dole out lavish bonuses to their senior executives….

I think most hardworking Americans would agree that the senior bureaucrats with the Customer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, and the Federal Communications Commission should not be receiving lavish bonuses when we are $19 trillion in the hole.”

The Amendment to ban bonuses for senior executives in all agencies covered by the bill was passed as written.

Jason Briefel commented that Congress is wasting its time and taxpayer dollars on provisions that will not become law and efforts such as these are undermining the Senior Executive Service compensation system, which Congress itself put in place in 2004. This is unfortunate, he noted, since Congress serves as the Board of Directors for the government and that actions such as the one to prohibit performance award payments to senior executives are not the way to improve government performance. Briefel said it undermines the performance pay system and reflects a lack of appreciation for the importance of the jobs performed by government and the senior executives responsible for implementing the government’s programs.

He also noted that it has become more difficult to fill many of the senior jobs in government which is not surprising as Congress has been using a “sticks only” approach in dealing with the federal workforce. He observed, however, the unfortunate news is that Congress is not doing its job effectively and ultimately the bill will not become law as written by the House since Congress is likely to pass a continuing resolution in the Fall upon failing to pass appropriations bills.

Other agencies covered by the funding in this bill include the Department of the Treasury, the General Services Administration, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Executive Office of the President, and these independent agencies:

  • the Administrative Conference of the United States,
  • the Consumer Product Safety Commission,
  • the Election Assistance Commission,
  • the Federal Communications Commission,
  • the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation,
  • the Federal Election Commission,
  • the Federal Labor Relations Authority,
  • the Federal Trade Commission,
  • the General Services Administration,
  • the Merit Systems Protection Board,
  • the National Archives and Records Administration,
  • the National Credit Union Administration,
  • the Office of Government Ethics,
  • the Office Personnel Management,
  • the Office of Special Counsel,
  • the Postal Regulatory Commission,
  • the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board,
  • the Securities and Exchange Commission,
  • the Selective Service System,
  • the Small Business Administration,
  • the U.S. Postal Service, and
  • the U.S. Tax Court.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47