In recent years, we’ve heard a lot of talk about draining the swamp. Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi once claimed she would drain the swamp. But for all the talk, very little was done until the election of President Trump, who made draining the swamp a centerpiece of his campaign. Since taking office, he has been working to do just that, and I wholeheartedly support his efforts.
One critical part of draining the swamp is firing ineffective, inefficient, and unelected bureaucrats. Earlier this year, President Trump signed three common sense executive orders designed to make it easier to fire bad federal employees and rein in government employee unions. Unfortunately, an Obama-appointed district judge just struck down important parts of these executive orders.
I’ve joined with several of my Republican colleagues to introduce and support the Modern Employment Reform, Improvement, and Transformation Act (MERIT Act). This legislation would change the way Washington does business by eliminating antiquated civil service laws and provide for the prompt dismissal of federal bureaucrats who engage in misconduct or who fail to perform their duties.
How do we know it will work? There’s precedent. Last spring, Republicans, Democrats, and the Trump Administration worked together to enact the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act.
This law – which I supported – has been praised by legislators of both parties. It gave administrators at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) the tools they needed to “hold bad employees accountable” and help end the culture of corruption that existed at this agency. Since the law’s enactment, the Trump Administration has used this new authority to remove hundreds of bad employees from the VA. As a result, countless men and women who sacrificed for this nation are no longer being treated as second-class citizens – but are instead receiving the support and medical care they deserve.
This is what the MERIT Act would do for the rest of government. The VA reform legislation is a success story we need to duplicate across all federal agencies – including the EPA, Department of Interior, and the Justice Department, to name a few. Recent data released by FedScope revealed federal employees have a 99.5 percent chance of never being fired – no matter what they do to earn a pink slip. And according to a 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, removing poor-performing bureaucrats takes a minimum 170 days and a total of 370 days once the decision has been made to terminate their employment.
A private sector company managing its workforce like that would never survive. This ongoing institutionalization of waste and corruption is one reason why spending in Washington remains so unsustainable. It is also why the rule of law remains so elusive. But it does not have to be this way, and that’s why I strongly support the MERIT Act.
For more information about the MERIT Act, visit the website FireTheSwamp.com.
Daniel Webster represents Florida’s 11th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.