The MSPB is hanging by a thread.
This morning, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs recessed without voting on the three US Merit Systems Protection Board nominees. Sen. Ron Johnson, the Committee Chairman, told reporters that he decided to not bring up a vote after a 7-7 roll call vote on member Andrew Maunz. There was not a roll call vote on either of the two other nominees.
Wait, you wise FELTG readers are probably saying, “Doesn’t the committee have 15 members? And don’t Republicans have the majority?” Per a source, Sen. Rand Paul voted no by proxy, depriving the majority of an 8-7 vote. Sen. Paul opposes the existence of the MSPB, according to the source.The nominations of Chairman Dennis D. Kirk and Members Julia A. Clark and Maunz will be returned to the administration without a vote and the nomination process will have to begin all over again with a new Senate in January.
Meanwhile, more than 1,500 cases in the MSPB backlog will go unaddressed. By the time the new Board members, hopefully, get confirmed sometime next spring, there will probably be about 1750 cases waiting to be adjudicated.
Hopefully is the critical word. Sen. Johnson, according to a source, will not review the nominations if they are resent next year unless he can get Sen. Paul or a Democrat to change their minds.Remember: Acting Chairman Mark Robbins, the sole remaining member of the MSPB, turns into a political pumpkin at midnight on March 1. His term will expire, and he cannot be renewed or held over any longer. Unless a miracle occurs in February, it’s likely that come March, the Board will be without any members for the first time in history.Meanwhile, FELTG has been told that there is a legal opinion floating around that if Robbins leaves and no Senate-confirmed Article II person is on board to replace him, then the MSPB as an agency goes out of existence.
Before today, not one nominee to be a member of MSPB was rejected at the committee level in the Senate. Today, that happened to three nominees. It is impossible to predict what will happen next, other than that the federal civil service will continue to suffer and employee appeals will continue to disappear into the gapping void that was formerly the US Merit Systems Protection Board.
These are sad times, indeed, for the federal civil service. With respects to John Donne: “No federal employee is an island, entire of itself; every employee is a piece of the civil service, a part of the main. If a single employee be washed away by the loss of oversight protections, the federal civil service is the less, as well as if an entire agency were, as well as if a position of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any employee’s loss of rights diminishes me, because I am involved in the civil service, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”