Reps. want Trump officials on the record about OPM breakup

Two democratic members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee want top administration officials in transcribed interviews to clarify the White House’s reasons for a proposed breakup of the Office of Personnel Management.

Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Gerry Connolly, D-Va., sent a letter to acting OPM Director and Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert, requesting two OMB officials and one OPM official to speak on the plans.

“We have continuously expressed serious concerns about the administration’s reorganization proposal, including concerns about the removal of expertise and merit standards from our federal workforce, as well as the lack of adequate planning and stakeholder engagement undertaken by administration officials,” the Representatives wrote.

“The committee has repeatedly attempted to work with OPM staff to get information that would demonstrate that the Administration performed its due diligence when offering this proposal. But OPM has failed to provide — and in at least one case, create — even basic documents that would allow for oversight of the plan.”

Under the letter’s request, Deputy Assistant Director for Management of OMB Dustin Brown, Associate Director for OMB Peter Warren and Deputy Director of OPM Michael Rigas would be required to participate in interviews with the committee by the end of July.

The Trump administration has a history of denying requested appearances of officials before congressional committees, for example that of former White House counsel Don McGhan to testify on the Muller investigation into Trump campaign interactions with Russia.

The letter also reiterates the committee’s previous call for documents supporting the reasoning for breaking up the federal personnel office, a risk analysis plan, a timeline for the transition and any alternative plans discussed for creating a more efficient OPM.

“To date, OPM’s response to committee document requests has been wholly inadequate and has failed to provide most of the information that has been requested,” Cummings and Connolly wrote.

“In its last two appearances before the committee, the Office of Personnel Management has failed to justify the administration’s intention to eliminate the agency; provide basic planning documents, including a legal analysis of the authorities required to implement the proposed abolition of OPM; and assure the committee that moving OPM’s policy functions to the Executive Office of the President would not reverse more than 100 years of civil service reform. Under these circumstances, we wish to convey in the clearest possible terms that we oppose the administration’s intentions for OPM.”

The letter is the latest in a series of standoffs between the White House and members of Congress over whether the proposed dismantling of OPM should move forward.

House Democrats have included language in fiscal year 2020 appropriations legislation that would prevent the Trump administration from using any funds to facilitate the transfer, but OPM leadership has said that it will need to furlough and potentially fire 150 of its employees to offset the costs that will occur if the merger does not take place.

“The committee takes these threats very seriously. Furloughs and terminations would deeply affect Americans who have dedicated their careers to serving the nation,” Cummings and Connolly wrote.

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