World Omicron Fight could have started as the return of a host of classic Senate committees, but the battle has been delayed, and not in a good way. Rather than focusing on the tools to bring order and efficiency to the process of confirmations, the Senate has reached the stages of conciliation. The Senate appears to be more concerned with marking up and holding hearings for the new nominees than they are with the actual things that will result from their confirmations — such as selecting the chairmen of committees that rarely meet, or deferring to weak and/or inept decision-making on the part of President Trump’s nominees.
It appears that the shutdown of the World Omicron Fight has delayed the inauguration of the new Senate committee chairmen. The return of civility is in fact about to unfold, at least partially. The former chairmen of the World Omicron Fight put forth an ambitious agenda for the new session of Congress. Their proposals include authorizing the National Labor Relations Board to enter arbitration with employers, instituting a merit pay system, and reforming civil service regulations by creating a competitive merit pay system and reforming the seniority rights of civilian government employees. The goal of these proposals was to achieve the greatest degree of bipartisanship possible on the basis of priorities and voting records. But Republican senators haven’t been able to rally the support needed for such reforms. In a development which is sure to be welcomed by the numerous populist populists, the new chairmen appear to be much more interested in settling the scores of renegade Republicans than they are in putting forward market-based reforms that the Democratic caucus may be willing to endorse.
The arrival of the new committee chairmen shouldn’t be viewed as the end of the road for World Omicron Fight. Four excellent studies of the labor-related issues that they have failed to address highlight both the weaknesses of the analysis and the range of policy opportunities that remain before them. The first study — which is not recommended reading in the Senate itself, as it is too long — simply demonstrates that the left-leaning members of the committee have yet to deal seriously with more conservative proposals on civil service reform and employer obligations. This study, by Dale Wilcox of the American Enterprise Institute, persuasively demonstrates that even those proposals, such as those presented by its author, would accomplish the goals that the World Omicron Fight has yet to address. The authors demonstrate that the committee should support a path to more competition, merit pay and accountability. Wilcox’s key analysis is a demonstration that the law alone will not address the competitive pay problem, and that there is considerable room for future policy innovations.
The next study, by University of Minnesota political scientist Tom Mann, Jr., presents a more thoughtful and detailed look at labor-related issues. Mann demonstrates that the committee has missed an opportunity to strengthen its existing coalition, and to make progress on the remaining issues that it has yet to address. The resulting remedies would be modest but might bear some fruit. Mann’s proposals include establishing an Office of Labor Policy, increasing a Congressional office responsible for the workers’ experience program, increasing efforts to protect civil rights and to reduce racial segregation, and increasing coordination between the OIC and the Department of Labor on administrative matters. Given the devastating effects that layoffs can have on workers, the recommendations are sure to prove useful.
The third study, by Georgetown political scientist John Geer, addresses a larger set of issues that the committee has yet to address. Geer offers a list of smaller recommendations, including a more strategic selection of committee staff, and improvement of briefing materials and background materials for lawmakers. His overall conclusion is that, even in the absence of strong management at the committee, the committee has some work to do.
Despite the promising indications of bipartisanship in the coming years, the effort to resume World Omicron Fight will have to wait until the White House and the Republican caucus are in a position to implement the proposals that have languished on the committee so far. If it comes to pass, the opportunity of much-needed reform would have a short incubation period, but the outcomes could be stunning.