A group of GOP lawmakers is angling to reduce the number of feds engaged in telework, citing high vaccination rates and other reductions in COVID risks in traditional federal workplaces—as well as recent complaints of deteriorating service to constituents.
COVID-19 hit America’s shores hard beginning in March 2020. And now, almost two years later—despite a new spike in hospitalizations and deaths in many regions—a group of GOP lawmakers is ramping up an ongoing push to return most feds to traditional workplaces.
The highest-ranking, and most powerful, voice pressing for a “return to normal” is House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). In recent days, the Bakersfield native has stepped up his criticism that government services have deteriorated. Besides, he points out, only a very small percentage of feds have not yet gotten fully vaccinated—to McCarthy the risks are low enough that most feds should be required to go back to the office.
“When the pandemic first began, federal agencies did what many schools and businesses did: they shut their doors and shifted to remote work,” declared another backer of the back-to-the-office effort, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), this week. “Today, almost 21 months later, teachers and students are back in the classroom. Businesses have safely reopened. Health care and public safety workers continue to show up for work. Yet much of the federal government appears to be stuck in 2020, with many offices still closed to the public. These closures have made it harder for Americans to obtain basic government services, such as Social Security and VA benefits.”
“It is now time to bring back our federal workers and deliver the service that the American people have been promised and expect of their government,” a group of over 40 additional Republican lawmakers wrote in a joint letter to the Biden administration last month.
Some of the lawmakers are spearheading legislation aimed at forcing the White House to place far more of the workforce back at their old spots—with Wicker on the front line of the effort.
“I am now preparing legislation to force the hand of these agencies,” Wicker said in a statement. “My bill, known as the Return Employees To Understaff ed Worksites to Reopen Now, or RETURN Act, would give federal agencies 30 days to submit a reopening plan to Congress. It would require federal workers who handle personal or sensitive information – such as Social Security numbers – to return to their workstations.”
A number of news sites, such as FedWeek and the Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages, recently have offered detailed pieces on the effort to restore federal employees to their worksites.
NEXT STORY: What's next for security clearance reform?