GOP lawmaker breaks with Trump on government hiring freeze

Greg Nash

A House Republican representing a swing district outside the nation’s capital is speaking out against President Trump’s executive action to impose a federal government hiring freeze.

Rep. Barbara Comstock (Va.) represents one of several districts in Maryland and Northern Virginia that surround Washington D.C. and are home to large populations of federal workers.

Trump’s executive action announced Monday halts all new hires for the federal government except for the military, or if an agency head considers a position necessary for national security or public safety.

{mosads}The hiring freeze, announced at the same time he issued executive actions withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and banning international organizations from using American funds if they provide abortions, fulfills one of Trump’s campaign promises.

“It ensures the American taxpayers get effective and efficient government,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said.

Comstock, however, warned that the hiring freeze could disrupt government services and hurt recruitment efforts, ultimately costing the federal government more money in the long term.

“While I am pleased that the hiring freeze does not include the military, public safety, and public health sectors of the federal government, the federal budget cannot be balanced on the backs of our federal workforce,” Comstock said in a statement.

“I don’t support this type of across-the-board freeze and think it is better to look at priorities and areas where appropriate cuts can be made and where we can consolidate efforts or identify unnecessary costs that can be eliminated,” she said.

The Washington suburbs are predominately represented by Democrats, who decried the hiring freeze on Monday.

“Weakening the ability of the federal government to carry out its crucial mission is not how you put ‘America first,’” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said, invoking the key theme of Trump’s inauguration address.

Comstock won reelection for a second term in November even though Hillary Clinton carried her district by 10 points over Trump, according to data compiled by the Daily Kos. She kept her distance from Trump throughout her campaign, and called on him to drop out after the release of the 2005 video showing him bragging about grabbing and kissing women without their consent.

Comstock has also been floated as a potential 2018 challenger to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Clinton’s erstwhile running mate, given her ability to carry a swing district in Northern Virginia.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were the last to issue across-the-board hiring freezes.

Some agencies, such as the Pentagon, halted new hires under former President Barack Obama, who also signed a salary freeze in 2010. Then-President George W. Bush ordered a government hiring freeze in 2001, but it only applied to agencies where he hadn’t yet appointed a leader.

The Government Accountability Office concluded in 1982 that hiring freezes were “not an effective means of controlling federal employment,” because any savings were ultimately offset by increasing workers’ overtime pay and hiring private contractors.

Tags Barack Obama Hillary Clinton Tim Kaine

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