Back to the Future: How to Cut Federal Salaries and Agency Programs

The Holman Rule has been extended in the House of Representatives. It allows cutting specific salaries or programs through the federal appropriations process.

Congressman William S. Holman was an Indiana Democrat in the 19th century. His impact may still be felt on federal employees in 2018.

He served in 16 Congresses when a career in Congress was still relatively uncommon. Perhaps his impact has been much greater than other Congressman who served in that era because of the “Holman Rule”.

The House has just enacted the Holman Rule again for use in Congress in 2018. Its purpose now, as it was then, is to cut government spending. While the philosophy of political parties may change, a desire to cut and restrain government spending has not changed.

The Holman Rule is a method for cutting spending by reducing the number of federal officials and cutting the salary of federal officials. It is also a way to quickly reduce the compensation of any person paid out of Treasury funds and to reduce the amount of money spent through an appropriations bill.

Impact of The Holman Rule

The Holman rule was eliminated in 1983. It was again implemented under the Rules for the 115th Congress adopted on January 2, 2017. It was extended this week for use in the current Congress.

The House Rules specifically cite the Holman Rule which will have the following purpose:

The purpose of this provision is to see if the reinstatement of the Holman rule will provide Members with additional tools to reduce spending during consideration of the regular general appropriation bill.

How Would Agencies and Employees Be Impacted?

Cutting back on programs in agencies through the appropriations process will presumably mean that program goes out of existence or becomes ineffectual.

Congressman Gerald Connolly (D-VA) made as comment through a press release. He called the Holman Rule:

[A] cynical and dangerous attack on federal workers that allows Members of Congress to reduce the salaries of federal employees. This archaic tool, also known as the Armageddon Rule, is nothing more than a backdoor way for Republicans to dismantle the federal workforce and carry out political vendettas at the expense of career civil servants.

The imposition or the existence of the Holman Rule may surprise some readers. Its intent should not be a surprise. The “Contract With America” issued by the Trump campaign called for a hiring freeze. Other priorities for the Trump administration include:

The Holman Rule will make it quicker and easier to accomplish these goals.

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