Emergency Legislation Introduced to Keep MSPB Leadership in Place

The sole Chairman of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) is entering the final month of his term. With no new board members confirmed by the Senate, the expiration of the final Chairman’s term would leave the Board without leadership, exacerbating the already significant backlog. Lawmakers have introduced legislation to extend the current member’s term to ensure a smooth transition once new members are confirmed.

House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) introduced H.R. 1235 to extend current MSPB Chairman Mark Robbins’ term.

By law, the MSPB must have three individuals on the board, two members from the majority party and one from the minority. The MSPB is a quasi-judicial agency charged with hearing cases regarding federal employee firings and whistleblower retaliation.

Chairman Robbins is currently in a one-year holdover term, as the remaining board seats have remained vacant since 2017.

With a lack of quorum, Robbins has only been able to issue stays and his vote on cases coming to the board, but no final decisions. This has fueled a backlog of nearly 2,000 cases.

A concurrent problem was that Robbins was “dual hatted” after being appointed a position as the Office of Personnel Management’s General Counsel. This has sparked concern over a conflict of interest between the two positions.

H.R. 1235 would require Robbins to forfeit the conflicting position in order to remain on the board.

Last week the nominations for two MSPB board members, Julia Clark and Dennis Kirk, moved out of committee on a bipartisan basis. The third nominee, Andrew Maunz, withdrew his nomination just days prior to the committee hearing.

Committee Chairman Ron Jonson (R-WI) indicated the nominees would not move to the full Senate floor for a vote at least until a third nominee was named. This increases the likelihood of the Board existing without leadership for some time once Robbins’ term ends.

Robbins’ term ends February 28, so the stopgap measure or the passage of the nominees would have to take place before then to ensure the MSPB remains led without interruption.

Posted in From the Hill

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