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Issa addresses Perry’s comments about federal workers

The House Republican committee chairman overseeing the federal workforce said the rank and file shouldn’t read too much into what Texas Gov. Rick Perry said last week about what he would do as president with subordinate federal workers.

During a campaign stop Tuesday in New Hampshire, Perry said he would send federal workers who fail to implement his policy changes to “a God-awful place,” a comment that earned laughs from the crowd and angry responses from federal worker union leaders.

In response, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chalked Perry’s comments up to presidential campaign politics.

“When you’re running for an office, particularly in the primary, I think there’s always going to be some people who you can’t control their comments or who make a popular statement for a short period of time,” Issa said Friday. “By the time we have a presumptive nominee, I would expect that we will be, and I will be, aggressively trying to make them understand that the reforms in the federal workforce are much, much more subtle, because most of the problems in the federal workforce can be traced back to how the Executive Branch, under political leadership, and Congress have told them to act.”

Speaking at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Issa said: “I think you don’t say, ‘You do this, or else.’ You say, ‘Look, changes are going to have to be made very clearly.’ ”

“The federal government is not so desperate that we have to somehow pretend we’re in bankruptcy,” Issa added later. “But we are in need of reorganization, and for the good of the American people and the federal workforce, we should start acting like adults in our negotiations. But that has to originate from a president and from a Congress and then it has to respect the transition that would be appropriate. That’s true of Social Security and Medicare, of course, but it’s also true of how you deal with the federal workforce. We’ve been hiring like crazy at a time when we could be changing.”

Issa said lawmakers could have offered jobs created by the Transportation Security Administration to U.S. Postal Service workers that are no longer needed. “It was within our purview to say that, yes, a postal worker might be more expensive under their contract, but why did we go out for new hires when we had excess personnel in another area? We could have made those adjustments and said, within the federal workforce, we can have a transition plan. It’s not the postal workers’ problem that we were too dumb to do it, or too lazy or unwilling.”

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.



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