Paul Ryan
Credit: Tony Alter/Flickr

I’m under the weather today or I might attempt a more robust response to this:

House Republicans this week reinstated an arcane procedural rule that enables lawmakers to reach deep into the budget and slash the pay of an individual federal worker — down to a $1 — a move that threatens to upend the 130-year-old civil service.

The Holman Rule, named after an Indiana congressman who devised it in 1876, empowers any member of Congress to offer an amendment to an appropriations bill that targets a specific government employee or program.

These folks are always more evil than I can anticipate. I could spend a lot of time trying to imagine how they’ll seek to screw us and not come up with reviving a House rule from 1876 that allows congresspeople to legally write what are essentially Bills of Attainder to financially ruin civil servants they don’t like.

I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on the interwebs, but my reading of United States v. Lovett is that you cannot ordinarily, without due process or a trial, deny a federal worker their salary or single them out for punishment in some tangible way.

I thought we settled this after President Garfield was assassinated by a loon who thought he was owed a patronage job and President Arthur signed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883.

Turns out that this was just a temporary innovation on America’s part.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that insofar as voters elected Trump with the hope of fundamentally changing the way government works, the Holman Rule gives Congress a chance to do just that.

“This is a big rule change inside there that allows people to get at places they hadn’t before,” he told reporters this week.

Asked which agencies would be targeted, he said that “all agencies should be held accountable and tested in a manner and this is an avenue to allow them to do it.”

There’s more to discuss but, as I said, I’m feeling a little ill today.

Just remember, they don’t want to take us back to Andy Griffith’s America; they want to send us back to the 19th Century.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at