July 25, 2006
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
We are writing to express our strong opposition to the “Government Efficiency Act” (HR 5766) and the “Abolishment of Obsolete Agencies and Federal Sunset Act,” (HR 3282), both of which are scheduled for floor debate on Thursday. HR 5766 and HR 3282 would establish one or more sunset commissions to review federal agencies and programs, including entitlement programs, to determine whether they should be terminated, continued or changed.
Under the guise of improving the efficiency of government, these bills would trample principles essential to democracy, including transparency, openness and accountability to the public. Under these bills, Congress would essentially abdicate its oversight responsibilities and turn over decisions about the function and structure of the federal government to an unelected commission. Furthermore, each bill establishes an extraordinary process for advancing commission recommendations. Under HR 5766, commission recommendations would be considered under fast track procedures that would prohibit floor amendments under certain circumstances. Under HR 3282, agencies would automatically be abolished unless the Congress reauthorized them within a year. Given the President’s veto authority, an agency could be abolished even after a solid majority voted to reauthorize the agency.
A review of the President’s annual budget suggests which programs sunset commissions are likely to recommend ending, including many education, law enforcement and social service programs. However, while a commission may decide to continue a program or agency, substantial harm could still be caused by recommending changes that eliminate worker protections, weaken enforcement, or undermine the mission of programs and agencies through consolidation, block granting or privatization.
For example, a variety of worker protections included in laws authorizing federal programs would be at risk of elimination. These include civil rights, whistleblower protections in the federal and private sector, Davis-Bacon requirements, and collective bargaining rights.
A sunset commission could be used to advance the administration’s privatization scheme which the House has repeatedly rejected because of its bias in favor of contractors. In fact, it is not hard to imagine an extreme form of patronage whereby contractors who are favored political supporters are appointed to a commission to divide up the spoils of government among themselves.
Sunset commissions would also create a new opportunity for advancing the privatization of Social Security and drastic cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. The fast track congressional procedures under HR 5766 would give vulnerable populations little time to express opposition to changes that could cause them great hardship. The automatic abolishment of the Social Security Administration under HR 3282 would allow privatization of Social Security to occur even if a majority in Congress opposed it.
HR 5766 and HR 3282 are fundamentally undemocratic, designed to remove the voice of the public from decision making. We strongly urge you to oppose this legislation.
American Federation of Government Employees
American Federation of Musicians
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
American Federation of Teachers
Building and Construction Trades Department
Communications Workers of America
Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO
International Association of Machinists
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers
International Union, UAW
International Union of Police Associations
National Association of Letter Carriers
National Federation of Federal Employees, IAMAW
National Treasury Employees Union
Professional Airways Systems Specialists
Sheet Metal Workers International Union
Transport Workers Union
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO
United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices
in Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry