The Washington Post

Federal employees who are significantly behind on their federal taxes could be fired under legislation approved Wednesday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), says individuals with “seriously delinquent tax debts” are ineligible for federal employment. It would apply to applicants, as well as those already on the job.

While Chaffetz said “you cannot say enough good things” about the majority of federal employees, he added that workers who skirt taxes should be fired.

His legislation would exclude employees whose debt “is being paid in a timely manner” or who have requested a due process collection hearing or have a hearing pending.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, said IRS figures show that more than 96 percent of federal employees pay their taxes on time, a higher rate than the general public. Picking up on that statistic, Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) said “there actually isn’t any problem for there to be solved.”

The larger issue, said Connolly, is that the legislation, which he opposed, is “part and parcel of a general assault on public employees in the country and in this Congress.”

Similar legislation regarding federal contractors also was approved by a voice vote.

The committee, with a vote along party lines, also advanced legislation that would provide a two-year probationary period for federal employees, instead of the one-year period that now is the government standard. The two-year period applies only to new hires. One-year probation, however, would continue to apply to veterans.

“By extending the probationary period, we are untying supervisors’ hands, so that those that aren’t performing as well don’t stay in employment,” Ross said in a prepared statement.

Cummings pointed out that the legislation has not been the subject of a hearing, where agency officials could address the potential effects of the bill.

“We have not had a single piece of testimony,” he said.

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.

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