A bill that wags have dubbed the "Fired Cabinet Officers Relief Act" is headed for the House floor Monday.
What the bill does is to postpone the effective date of the new Ethics in Government law, so that fired Cabinet officials and their ousted aides won't get caught in that law's "revolving door" provisions, which might make it difficult for them to find new jobs.
The "revolving door" provisions are designed to prevent former top federal officials from trying to influence their old agencies on behalf of their new private-sector employers. But a side effect of the law, presumably, is to make former officials less attractive to private firms, since it prevents them from using their inside contacts with the agency for a period of up to two years.
The law went into effect July 1, but the bill coming up Monday would postpone the effective date until Sept. 30.
"This all stems from the shakeup," said Rep. George Danielson (D-Calif.), chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee bringing the bill to the floor. "Certain people stayed on when they could have gotten out in May or June, and then soon as they crossed the [July 1] threshold, whacko, they're out."
Danielson said he drafted the bill because "the speaker asked me to put it in."
An aide to House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Mr. (D-Mass.), said that "recently ousted administration officials" asked the speaker to do it, but he wouldn't say which ones. Other sources said it was former health, education and welfare secretary Joseph C. Califano Jr.
Danielson said he checked and the White House "expressed no opposition" to the bill.
But the bill is being brought up under a method that requires a two-thirds vote for approval and Danielson acknowledged it could be defeated. "It may be we can't get the two-thirds vote. If we can't I couldn't care less."
Asked about the "relief act" jokes going around about the bill, Danielson said, "Oh, I don't give a damn if it draws snickers. I'm just a mechanic here. But this is fairness. What the hell's wrong with being fair?"
In a letter to all House members, Common Cause, a public advocacy lobby, blasted the "last-minute maneuver;" as "outrageous...seeking to change the rules of the game retroactively." It noted that not only would the bill affect the fired officials, but it would "remove the cover" of the law for thousands of others.
The "revolving door" provisions of the law say that for two years after leaving, GS 16s and above can't appear personally before their former agency on matters in which they had a substantial role when they worked for the government.