Bill proposes a stopgap for fed appeals board vacancies

The Merit Systems Protection Board, which hears appeals on federal employee personnel actions, has gone without a quorum since January 2017 and without a single member since March 1, 2019.

But Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., are seeking to make sure that a vacant board doesn’t prevent federal employee whistleblowers from receiving the kinds of protections that MSPB is usually able to offer them.

The Interim Stay Authority to Protect Whistleblowers Act would delegate temporary authority to stay questionable personnel actions brought against whistleblowers to MSPB general counsel. That authority would expire the moment a board member is confirmed by the Senate.

“This was a completely avoidable crisis. Whistleblowers shouldn’t be held hostage by the failures of the political system. Our legislation would, at a minimum, keep the lights on and allow the MSPB general counsel to prevent an agency from taking a retaliatory or prohibited personnel action against those who disclose wrongdoing,” said Connolly and Cummings in a news release.

Congress failed to approve any of President Donald Trump’s three nominees for the MSPB board before the end of the last session in January 2019.

With the start of the new Congress, Trump once again nominated two of his original choices to hear retaliation appeals, while the third nominee withdrew his nomination after receiving stringent opposition from federal employee groups and members of Congress.

Trump nominated a replacement for that third nominee earlier this month.

With the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee’s tradition of approving or disapproving nominees as a group, it is possible that all three nominees could make it to the board at once, though a hearing on those nominees has yet to be scheduled.

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