By: Lessa Leigh
Our Congress has been busy over the past week. We’re only 9 days into 2017, and we’ve already seen the House attempt to dismantle their office of ethics, and the Holman Act was revived. The bid to do away with pesky ethics investigations failed (for now), but the Holman Act, which allows Congress to change a federal employee’s salary to $1, has slipped by unnoticed. The law was passed in 1876 and empowers any member of Congress to suggest slashing funding to a $1, either for an individual employee or to a specific program. Now that the Holman Act has been dusted off, federal employees are now subject to the political whims of Congress in a way that is unprecedented. Granted, both the House and the Senate would need to approve any proposed budgetary amendments, but with a GOP-led Congress, it’s not difficult to imagine how this will be used.
Aside from dusting off the Holman Act, the House is busy trying to dismantle regulatory laws with a series of acts: The Midnight Rules Relief Act (H.R.21), the REINS Act (H.R.26), and the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) (H.R. 5). The basic purpose of these acts is to help corporate interests evade the public protections consumers and workers expect.
With the Midnight Rules Relief Act, Congress could wipe out large chunks of regulations at once, instead of voting on individual resolutions. Good-bye, endangered species. Good-bye, environmental protections. Good-bye, food and drug safety standards. Good-bye, workplace requirements for employee health and welfare.
The REINS Act would require all economically significant regulations to be approved within a short period of time by both the House and the Senate in order to take effect. Congressional inaction in that tight window would essentially be a veto for any new regulation.
The Regulatory Accountability Act forces any new public protections to got through eighty more hurdles within the regulatory process, which already takes several years.
Effectively, if the House of Representatives gets these acts passed and then gets them approved by the Senate, we would see the potential for many consumer safeguards to be eradicated. Predatory lending practices or unsafe financial vehicles could develop unchecked. Environmental standards to protect our air or water could be removed. Consumer rights to hold corporations accountable could be erased. OSHA protections could be repealed.
Add on the hurdles of the RAA and the narrow window created by the REINS Act, and turning around the damage of the Midnight Rules Relief Act is substantially more difficult. Combine these acts with the already extant Holman Act, and it is possible that individual federal employees could face financial retaliation for doing their jobs to protect Americans. It’s also possible that entire programs, which are disliked by our GOP-led Congress, could find themselves dismantled, either partially to the point of ineffectiveness or totally to the point of non-existence.
Welcome to fascism, boys and girls. I did tell you before that it would move quickly, and it is. Also, don’t be fooled by the shell game. Finding the pea under the correct shell isn’t winning the game, if the real game is happening behind you and there’s no pea in the first place.
Contact your Congressional representative and both of your Senators. Tell them that you do not support any of these acts, and that they work to represent you. Remind them that they can be fired.