The Holman Rule and Federal Employees

The “Holman Rule” was dropped in new House rules adopted for the 116th Congress which could make some federal employees sleep easier at night.

Congressman William S. Holman was an Indiana Democrat in the 19th century. He served in 16 Congresses at a time when a career in Congress was still not common.

Perhaps his impact has been much greater than most Congressman who served in that era because of the “Holman Rule”. While the Holman Rule was used in Congress for decades, it was eliminated in 1983. In 2017, the House reinstated the rule although it was not used in the last Congress.

The “Holman Rule” has now been deleted as a result of the new rules package to be used.

While it was not used to eliminate or reduce spending on any federal programs, eliminating the “Holman Rule” procedure may make some federal employees sleep a little easier.

What is the Holman Rule?

The Holman Rule is a way to reduce spending by cutting the number and salaries of federal officials. It could also be used to reduce the compensation of any person paid out of Treasury funds and to reduce the amount of money spent through an appropriations bill.

The Holman rule was first implemented in 1876. Its purpose was to cut down on spending by the federal government.

Impact of The Holman Rule

The Holman rule was eliminated in 1983. It was again adopted under the Rules for the 115th Congress and adopted on January 2, 2017. As noted above, it was deleted from the House rules this week in the new Congressional session.

Impact on Agencies and Employees

Cutting back on programs in agencies through the appropriations process can eliminate a federal program or render it ineffective. That was the intent as it can reduce government spending.

Congressman Gerald Connolly (D-VA) made this comment through a press release when it was adopted for the 115th Congress. 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.

While the rule could be used as a way to cut spending and could be used to cut the salaries of some federal workers, it was not used in the last Congress, although it was used as a threat.

Eliminating the rule was a good political move for elected federal officials in the Washington, DC area, and a press release taking credit for the change was quickly issued by Congressional representatives from the National Capital Region.

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