A Game of Musical Chairs?

One could have his chairmanship snatched away by Senate colleagues. The other would relinquish his post if he's appointed to the Senate.

Lieberman chairs the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Across the Capitol, Davis heads the House subcommittee on federal workforce, postal service and the District of Columbia.

We should know today if Lieberman will continue to run his committee. While he's a friend to federal workers, he was no friend to the Democrats during the presidential race. He campaigned vigorously against President-elect Obama and for the Republican nominee, John McCain.

It's no wonder the party faithful want him to pay a price for that.

Democrats in the Senate planned to announce today how, if at all, they will punish Lieberman. The Connecticut senator was once such a strong Democrat that he was the party's vice presidential nominee in 2000. Now, he calls himself an independent Democrat. For organizational purposes, he is a Democrat and, because the Dems control the Senate, they will decide how he should be disciplined.

Losing his full committee chairmanship is not the only possible penalty, but if that happens federal employees will miss a man who has been on their side for years.

"I think Joe Lieberman has been a hero for federal employees," said Beth Moten, legislative and political director for the American Federation of Government Employees. "He's been a leader of every issue for federal employees since he's been chairman."

One of his biggest battles concerned the rights of employees in the Department of Homeland Security. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when the Bush administration finally agreed to create the department after being prodded by Lieberman and others, the White House proposal called for giving the president "significant flexibility in hiring processes, compensation systems and practices, and performance management to recruit, retain and develop a motivated, high-performance and accountable workforce."
That gave federal union leaders heartburn. They feared a department without civil service protections and employees with no right to unionize.

Lieberman responded by fighting, though not always with complete success, for legislation protecting collective bargaining rights for homeland security workers.

"I have sought to ensure that federal employees receive the pay and benefits they deserve, can bargain collectively, and can voice their concerns without retaliation, and I have opposed excessive outsourcing of government work," Lieberman told the Federal Diary. "Unfortunately, the Bush administration has pursued a regressive agenda to do away with important worker rights and safeguards, so an essential part of my role has been to oppose such efforts, as well as to improve workers' conditions where possible."

Davis (D-Ill.) could give up his subcommittee chairmanship for more positive reasons. He's been mentioned as a potential candidate to fill the Senate seat that Obama vacated on Sunday. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) plans to announce the appointment by New Year's Day.

If Davis gets it -- and that's by no means certain -- it would be great for him, but government workers would lose a chairman who Dan Adcock, legislative director of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, calls "a great friend to the federal community."

Davis has been a strong advocate for diversity in the federal workplace and supported legislation giving workers eight weeks of paid parental leave.

Adcock praised Davis's 100 percent voting record in support of the organization's legislative agenda: "He's done a lot on federal employee and retiree benefits."

Electoral College Process

Last Friday, the Federal Diary reported on an Office of Special Counsel policy allowing federal workers to wear or display presidential campaign items in the workplace now that the election is over. I quoted the special counsel document that says the Electoral College process concludes on Jan. 6, 2009.

It's not often I get to tell a bunch of lawyers they are wrong, so I won't hesitate to take this opportunity. President Bush signed a law on Oct. 15 that says the electoral votes will be counted on Jan. 8.

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