Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said today he was reintroducing legislation to create a stronger Federal workforce by reauthorizing the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and requiring Federal agencies to report publicly about their workforce diversity and inclusion efforts.

Rep. Connolly – who chairs the House Government Operations Subcommittee and represents a northern Virginia district heavy with Federal employees – took full aim during a subcommittee hearing Feb. 23 at four years of Trump administration policies that he views as destructive to the Federal workforce.

On the legislative front, Rep. Connolly said he reintroduced the Merit Systems Protection Board Empowerment Act – a bill that would reauthorize the board through Fiscal Year 2026. The board, which lacked a quorum throughout the Trump administration, is a “quasi-judicial” independent agency established in 1979 to protect Federal merit systems and Federal employees against abuses by agency management.

A version of the bill introduced by Rep. Connolly last year – which included additional protections for Federal employee whistleblowers – did not make it out of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. He said at the Feb. 23 subcommittee hearing that the new version of the bill will give the board the authority to survey Federal employees “to find ways to improve its ability to protect expertise in government.”

The board, Rep. Connolly said, has a backlog of more than 3,000 petitions from employees “who claim they have been retaliated against or that their leadership has failed to uphold the very merit-system principles that serve as the foundation of our civil service.”

The congressman also said he was reintroducing the National Security Diversity and Inclusion Workforce Act, which would require national security agencies to provide public reports on diversity and inclusion efforts, and would “encourage agencies to expand development and career advancement opportunities for its workforce.”

While Rep. Connolly called the hearing a “critical inflection point” marking “the end of the Trump administration’s four-year assault on the Federal workforce,” he received considerable pushback on that theme from Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., ranking member of the subcommittee.

Rep. Hice said he “questioned the premise of the hearing” that suggests the Federal workforce “is in bad shape … it’s not.”

The congressman defended the general body of Trump administration Federal workforce policies, and said they have had a positive effect on most of the workforce as reflected in the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS).

FEVS surveys in recent years, Rep. Hice said, show that “Federal employees were happier to work under President Trump than Barrack Obama.” Part of the Trump administration’s appeal to the larger workforce, he argued, was its willingness to get rid of obstacles for management to remove poorly performing employees.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.