The House on July 11 approved an amendment to its version of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2500) that would block the Trump administration’s plan to merge the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the General Services Administration.
The amendment was offered by Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., Don Beyer, D-Va., and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. The language of the amendment says it would prohibit “the elimination” of OPM. The amendment was approved by a vote of 247 to 182.
Despite Thursday’s House vote to approve the amendment to H.R. 2500, legislative action to block the OPM-GSA merger is far from completion. The full House still needs to vote on its bill, and the Senate has yet to take up the measure. And any final version of the bill still needs President Trump’s signature.
The Trump administration has argued that the OPM-GSA merger is necessary for two reasons: first, because OPM’s IT infrastructure is in bad shape and would improve under GSA, and second, because OPM is running a budget deficit after transferring its National Background Investigations Bureau to the Defense Department. Margaret Weichert, OPM’s Acting Director, has said in recent weeks that those budget issues will lead to the near-term furlough of 150 OPM employees.
The merger has run into stiff headwinds in some quarters of Congress. Rep. Connolly has been a highly vocal opponent of the merger and has argued for the long-term importance of OPM as a separate entity administering Federal employee benefits and workplace policies. He has also questioned whether the administration can accomplish the merger without congressional action.
The merger and its impact on OPM employees is also facing questions from Senate Democrats, who told Weichert this week to hold off on the planned furloughs, and to present senators with further options to continue funding OPM into FY2020.