205 Democrats vote against bill forcing federal workers to return to the office as COVID winds down
Nearly every House Democrat on Wednesday voted against a Republican bill requiring federal agencies to end their COVID-era telework policies and require federal workers to return to their offices.
205 Democrats voted against the Stopping Home Office Work’s Unproductive Problems Act, or the SHOW UP Act, and just three Democrats voted for it. The bill, which passed 221-206, would require federal agencies to return to the telework policies that were in place before the pandemic hit, and also require them to conduct an assessment of how nearly three years of telework affected the government’s productivity.
House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., said the legislation is needed because the liberal telework policy that has existed for nearly three years has eroded government service.
“Federal agencies are falling short of their missions,” Comer said on the House floor. “They are not carrying out their duties. They are failing the American people.”
“They have waited for months for their tax returns from the IRS,” Comer added. “They have waited for months for the Social Security administration to answer their questions and provide their benefits. Our veterans have even waited for months to get their medical records from the National Archives.”
Democrats rejected that argument and said telework has made the federal government more efficient.
“We strongly oppose this bill, which is an assault on all the progress we have made over the last several years in telework policy,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the top Democrat on the Oversight and Accountability Committee.
“Telework has strengthened private and public workplaces across the land, enhanced productivity, increased efficiency, improved the morale and satisfaction of the workforce, reduced traffic congestion, and made positive environmental changes,” he said.
Raskin also rejected the name of the GOP bill and said it’s incorrect to assume that teleworking federal workers are not working while they’re at home.
“People who participate in telework are working,” Raskin said. “They’re already working, and so they don’t need to return to work.”
But Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said the Federal Times reported late last year that just one third of the federal workforce have returned to their offices in a full-time capacity.
In a separate vote on Wednesday, the House approved a resolution to end the national emergency related to COVID that President Trump declared in 2020, and that President Biden has extended since he has been in office.
The House approved that resolution 229-197, and 11 Democrats joined Republicans in that vote.
House passage of the two measures sends them to the Senate, which is unlikely to consider them because Democrats control that body 51-49. Most Democrats have supported the Biden administration’s approach to COVID, and the administration said this week it planned to end the national emergency related to COVID on May 11.