The Senate on Thursday rejected, on a largely party-line vote, a proposal to bar the government from filling vacant positions not deemed essential.
The amendment was offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the main Senate panel overseeing the federal workforce.
Coburn has been questioning why federal agencies are continuing to hire when many are planning to furlough employees due to sequestration spending cuts.
A fact sheet on his amendment noted that just before the sequester started March 1, the Office of Management and Budget ordered agencies to increase their scrutiny over hiring, among other steps.
“Despite dire warnings regarding cuts to [Transportation Security Administration] agents, air traffic controllers, and food inspectors, there have been thousands of new federal job postings since sequestration went into effect,” it says. In the first seven days after sequestration began, it says, more than 2,100 vacancies were posted on the government’s central recruiting site, usajobs.gov.
The fact sheet terms many of those jobs to be non-essential, including positions such as recreation aides, travel specialists, historians and painters.
The Office of Personnel Management said last week that 6,500 vacancies open to the public were posted as of that time.
Coburn’s amendment would have allowed agencies to continue to fill positions for “performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property or performing certain other types of excepted work.”
Several agencies already have imposed general hiring freezes, with the largest, the Defense Department, beginning even before sequestration started and leaving only a few exceptions.
The amendment was offered to a funding bill needed to keep the government operating past March 27 when temporary spending authority expires. All but two Democrats voted against it while all but two Republicans voted for it.