WASHINGTON – Today, in a letter to House and Senate leadership, Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Mike Johnson (LA-04) and RSC Government Efficiency, Accountability, and Reform (GEAR) Task Force Chairman Greg Gianforte (MT-At Large) outlined a conservative blueprint to increase efficiency and accountability in the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (click here to view the signed letter). The proposal is one of five pillars that make up RSC’s 37-point Conservative Framework for Recovery, Accountability and Prosperity (click here for more information).
The Task Force’s proposal builds upon its Feb. 2020 government reform plan – Power, Practices, Personnel: 100+ Commonsense Solutions to Better Government – to advocate for policies which will empower the federal workforce, optimize the utility of existing government facilities, and streamline federal rules to facilitate our nation’s economic recovery.
In light of those objectives, the Task Force urges members from both sides of the aisle to work together to ensure any future legislation related to COVID-19 advances the following ideas:
- Streamline Federal Hiring and Optimize Pay for High-Skilled Employees. The challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best in many of America’s federal personnel. These patriotic civil servants, along with countless experts in the private sector and generous volunteers, have done their best to respond to an extraordinary global crisis. Still, the need for more highly trained and specialized workers to join the federal ranks has been made apparent. The CARES Act specifically waived the Title 5 federal hiring requirements for the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to allow for streamlined hiring. This commonsense provision must be expanded. Thus, the Task Force recommends that federal managers across government be empowered to recruit and hire the most talented individuals who can fill these vital roles to ensure our workforce is better equipped for emergency response. The Task Force also recommends reform of the General Schedule (GS) wage scale to allow for improved compensation for individuals with critical skills and the expanded use of meritorious bonuses to reward excellent performance by federal employees.
- Enact the Eliminate Agency Excess Space Act. Beyond unleashing the federal workforce, the government should optimize the utility of existing federal infrastructure to combat COVID-19. In particular, the Task Force recommends enactment of the Eliminate Agency Excess Space Act, sponsored by Rep. Greg Murphy (NC-03). This bill would eliminate antiquated laws that limit the sale, lease, or donation of federal office space. This simple reform would ease the transfer of unused federal buildings to support health care workers serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 crises.
- Enact the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act. The CARES Act provides standard Economic Impact Payments of $1,200 for many Americans. The Task Force urges that these funds be administered carefully to minimize the chance of fraud or waste that plagues other government programs. Particularly relevant is the fact that in 2015 the Social Security Administration Inspector General found 6.5 million deceased individuals who were still active recipients of Social Security benefits. Because current recipients of Social Security benefits will not be required to file an abbreviated tax form to receive the $1,200 tax rebates, there is reason for concern that these payments will be made to deceased individuals. Thus, the Task Force recommends the enactment of H.R. 2543, Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act, introduced by GEAR Chairman Rep. Greg Gianforte (MT-At Large) and Rep. Cheri Bustos (IL-17). This legislation would grant all federal agencies the same access to the death data base and would require states to share their death data with the Social Security Administration. This would remove the gaps in data that lead to countless dollars being wasted on improper payments to deceased individuals.
- Streamline the Permitting Process. While the federal government continues to focus on combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also important it consider how to best facilitate a speedy economic recovery by streamlining government regulatory processes. We cannot allow government red tape to unnecessarily slow down job creation, project management, and private investment. Specifically, the Task Force urges enactment of two important pieces of legislation: (1) the Critical Habitat Improvement Act, a bill that would require critical habitat designations be made only with land where the Secretary of the Department of Interior (DOI) has identified what elements are necessary for the survival of an endangered species, thus limiting burdensome restrictions on land use; and (2) the Federal Permitting and Jobs Act, a bipartisan bill that would streamline National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by creating a two-year deadline for agencies to finalize permitting
“In the best of times, cutting red tape and streamlining the federal bureaucracy saves time and money. In the worst of times – as we’ve seen during this pandemic – it can also save lives and livelihoods,” said Johnson. “Under President Trump’s leadership, our federal agencies and patriotic civil servants have accomplished extraordinary things over the past few months. With the reforms and recommendations put forward by the GEAR Task Force, we can ensure they are even more effective in the fight against COVID-19. These are commonsense solutions that should have been adopted a long time ago. I hope can Congress can work together to enact them without any further delay."
“As America continues to confront the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout, the federal government should implement common sense reforms to improve its response, keep Americans healthy, and safely get them back to work as soon as possible. Folks across our country are hurting and struggling because of this outbreak. The federal government has a responsibility to increase its efficiency and accountability as it addresses this public health crisis,” said Gianforte. “I urge members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to join us to improve the federal government’s response, protect Americans’ health and safety, and help us come out of this stronger than we were before.”