The legislation is comprised of three bills that House GOP leaders had to pull from the floor on Wednesday, after first trying to pass them under a suspension of the rules. That needed a two-thirds majority vote, but Democrats said they would oppose them, which required Republicans to bring up the bill under regular order.
"Why do they want to forbid citizens from transparently recording conversations with federal regulators?" Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) asked on the floor today. "You have to ask, why do they want to keep paying out hefty bonuses to well-compensated executives in these times of fiscal stress and economic restraint?"
Over the last two days, Democrats argued that the bill is the latest GOP attack on federal workers. They said bonuses are needed to retain federal workers, allowing recording of phone calls could put confidential information at risk, and that allowing the immediate termination of federal workers violates their right to due process.
Republicans rebutted Democrats by saying the bill would only limit bonuses to senior officials who are part of the Senior Executive Service, at a time when lower-level workers are being furloughed. The GOP also said most states already allow people to record calls with federal workers, and that the bill would maintain due process rights for employees except in extreme cases of misconduct.
More broadly, Democrats said the legislation is meant to give Republicans a political talking point over the August break, and many said the House should be working on a spending or a budget deal.
Republican have argued that the bills are a response to the scandals at the IRS and other federal agencies. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) displayed a poster of a top Government Services Administration official in a Nevada hot tub during a conference as an example of an official who was put on leave, but who continues to receive his paycheck.
On Wednesday, the House approved several bills to stop IRS conferences, allow IRS workers to be fired for misconduct, and clarify U.S. taxpayer rights when in a dispute with the IRS.