The mystery provisions are gone.
Yesterday, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), the House chairman who oversees the civil service, yanked provisions from a pending 9/11 bill that would have made it easier for the president to exclude unions at the Department of Homeland Security.
The provisions, which seemed likely to renew contentious debate over the role of unions at the departments of Homeland Security and Defense, had been part of a Republican bill that seeks to overhaul the government's intelligence community. The bill is scheduled for debate today by the House Government Reform Committee, which Davis heads, and the inclusion of the labor-management provisions had drawn objections from the National Treasury Employees Union.
"Chairman Davis decided the best move was to strip these provisions from the 9/11 legislation," Davis spokesman David Marin said in an e-mail. "Now is not the time to do anything that could disrupt ongoing, productive discussions between the administration and federal employee representatives on implementation of DHS' personnel system.
"By striking this language, he hopes to send the message to all stakeholders that we're all in this together," Marin said.
Marin said that Davis had consulted with Colleen M. Kelley, the NTEU president; Kay Coles James, director of the Office of Personnel Management, and with "other members of Congress" in making the decision to yank the provisions.
Kelley, in a statement, said she appreciated Davis's efforts and those of Bush administration officials, who were not identified, to remove the provisions from the bill.
NTEU spotted the provisions late Friday when House GOP leaders released their draft of legislation to reshape the intelligence community. Kelley criticized them as politically motivated and unrelated to the bill's primary purpose -- a reorganization of the intelligence community.
The provisions would have added "homeland security" to the list of functions in civil service law that the president can deem exempt from union representation. They also would have rolled back safeguards enacted in 2002 to protect employees from losing collective bargaining rights at the Department of Homeland Security during their transition to a new personnel system.
Yesterday, Republican congressional aides and administration officials declined to comment on who put the provisions in the bill or why they were needed. But one administration official said the provisions were an unwelcome surprise to James and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge at a sensitive time in their dealings with unions.
Homeland Security and OPM officials recently concluded discussions with federal unions on new personnel regulations that will probably change how employees are paid, promoted and disciplined. The new rules also will probably limit the types of issues that can be negotiated with unions. Similar changes are in the works at the Defense Department.
The administration's push for new workplace rules has roiled unionized workers, who contend that the administration's consultations with labor leaders are a sham and that the proposed changes will give too much discretion to managers and increase cronyism in the federal workplace.
With the labor provisions out of the bill, today's Government Reform session will focus on several of the recommendations of the 9/11 commission.
One of the bill's sections would provide FBI employees with more generous retention and relocation bonuses -- up to 50 percent of basic pay -- and would allow the FBI to pay as much as $175,700 annually for critical jobs in a new FBI intelligence directorate.
The bill also would put a deputy director of intelligence in control of security clearances for federal employees but stops short of consolidating background checks in one agency, as the Senate's 9/11 bill recommends.
The bill would reestablish the president's authority to submit agency reorganization plans to Congress for up or down votes but limits such plans to the intelligence community.
Please join me at noon today for a discussion of federal employee and retiree issues on Federal Diary Live at www.washingtonpost.com.