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EXTENDING CLASSIFIED CIVIL SERVICE
FRIDAY, APRIL 12, 1940
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D.C. The committee met, pursuant to recess, at 10 a. m. in room 249, Senate Office Building, Senator William J. Bulow (chairman) presiding
Present: Senators Bulow (chairman), George, Byrd, Mead, and Frazier.
Also present: Congressmen Ramspeck, Keller, and Nichols.
Kenneth C. Vipond, Assistant Chief Examiner, Civil Service Commission.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will please come to order. We will hear Congressman Ramspeck.
STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT RAMSPECK, REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF GEORGIA Mr. RAMSPECK. Mr. Chairman, in the Seventy-fifth Congress I introduced a bill which was known in that Congress as H. R. 2700, which had for its purpose the same objective as is found in title I of H. R. 960, which is before the committee, the difference being that that bill provided for competitive examinations for the incumbents of the existing positions.
We had a hearing on that bill and every witness who appeared before the House committee was opposed to the competitive examination. The Commission pointed out the fact that it would cost from $6,000,000 up to hold the examinations, and that because of various factors involved, it might displace as many as 75 percent of the incumbent employees, thus disrupting the service.
About the time the committee finished the hearings, the President sent to the Congress his message on reorganization and the House and Senate both appointed select committees on reorganization, and in the House committee jurisdiction was given to that committee over the question of extension of civil service and reorganization of the Civil Service Commission. The Senate passed the reorganization bill, as you remember, and it was recommitted in the House by a small majority.
In that reorganization bill was a provision similar to H. R. 960, in fact it was practically identical. The bill H. R. 960, now before the committee, is, in fact, insofar as it goes, identical with the bill which was introduced by your distinguished colleague Senator Mead, of New York, as a member of the House Committee on Reorganization. It is true that the Mead bill in the House went further, because it dealt with the question of reorganization of the Commission, but insofar as it affected the extension of the civil service and of the Classification Act, it was practically identical.
Now, in the hearings on H. R. 2700 in the Seventy-fifth Congress, we had before us, among other witnesses, Mr. E. Claude Babcock, president of the Federal Personnel Association, a former employee of the Civil Service Commission in a previous administration. I am referring to that testimony simply because 2 days after H. R. 960 passed the House, the Washington Times-Herald printed an article quoting Mr. Babcock as saying that the Ramspeck bill was a political raid because it provided for noncompetitive examinations. On pages 131 and 132 of the House hearings in the Seventyfifth Congress, Mr. Babcock testified and advocated the blanketing in of these employees without any examination, so that I am constrained to feel that his present attitude about the matter is political and does not have any relation to the civil service.
Title I of H. R. 960 does not bring anybody into the civil service. It is an effort to restore to the Chief Executive of our Government the authority that he has had since 1883, when the original Civil Service Act was passed. In that act the President was given authority to extend the civil service wherever Congress had not prohibited it, and to make such exemptions from civil service as in his judgment were necessary, and all this title undertakes to do is to restore to him that authority over certain agencies created and certain positions, which have been exempted by act of Congress. It would be entirely up to the President as to whether he exercised it, when he exercised it, and to what extent he exercised it. He might leave out the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for instance. He now has authority to bring that agency in except for the prohibition in the appropriation bill. The act creating the Federal Bureau of Investigation did not exempt it. He might leave out the Tennessee Valley Authority, as I understand has been suggested before this committee. He might bring in the clerical employees in an agency under this bill and exempt the attorneys, which he has done in many cases at present where no prohibition exists. Of course, you gentlemen know the Reed committee is making a study of the question as to whether or not the attorneys and technical employees should be included under civil service. I stress that point because it is sometimes misunderstood and some people think we are just blanketing in a lot of democratic appointees.
One reason why I think this legislation should be passed at this time is that we are constantly reducing certain of the agencies which were more or less of an emergency nature, and we are letting out of the service, separating from the public service, men who have given from 5 to 7 years of faithful service to the Government, men and women who have demonstrated their capability and their qualifications to do a good job, such as employees in the Public Works Administration, and some 10,000 have been separated from the Home Owners Loan Corporation in the last 3 years. Under the existing situation, those employees have no opportunity of reinstatement in the civil-service agencies. The training which they have received as Government employees, at the expense of the tax
payer, is being wasted and we are bringing into the service new, untrained people who must be educated on their jobs.
In addition to that, the reorganization program which is going forward is, from time to time, grouping together under one agency bureaus and divisions of the Government which are under civil service and bureaus and divisions of the Government which are not under civil service and cannot be brought under because of existing law. It results in many troublesome administrative problems to the heads of those agencies because employees who are barred from civil service by existing law are not eligible for transfer to civil-service positions, and those who are under civil service, of course, do not want to be transferred to the non-civil-service positions. So there is no flexibility as regards the personnel in those agencies.
Now, I understand question has been raised as to subsection (1) of section 2 before this committee and it has been suggested that if the head of an agency does not recommend an employe for noncompetitive examination under this bill, if it becomes a law, that that employee will not be removed from the service. If that is the construction placed on the act, then the bill should be amended, because it certainly was not the intention of the House committee, and I think certainly not of the House, to discriminate in favor of people who are not even recommended as compared to those who are recommended and fail to pass the examination, because of course they must be removed within 6 months. So I would urge the committee, if they come to the conclusion that that is the construction to be placed on the language in lines 12 to 19 on page 2 of the bill, that they eliminate that subsection and not require recommendation by the supervisory official. I never have been very much sold upon that requirement myself, but it was part of the reorganization bill and the Mead bill originally, and we tried, as I stated, to go along as nearly as possible with the bill introduced by our friend, Senator Mead from New York, at that time. If the committee does not see fit to do that, then I would urge upon them to write into the bill a provision that those who are not recommended within a specified period shall be separated from the service. I think only those should be retained who do pass a noncompetitive examination. I have no desire to clutter up the civil service with incompetent people, of course, and I hate to see anybody lose their jobs, but I think we ought to treat them all alike.
Now, title II of the bill simply gives the President authority to extend the classification act to the field service. In some of these newer agencies, and it may be true, I do not know, in some of the older agencies, there are employees doing stenographic work, for instance as an illustration, in one agency and in an adjoining agency there will be a stenographer doing the same work and he may get as much as $50 to $60 a month less in pay. In some of the newer agencies the pay scales are pretty low, unless they have been revised recently. I know of one agency in my own district where they were paying typists as low as $65 a month, which I think is too low. I see no reason why our citizens back in the States should not be paid a like amount for like work as compared with people in Washington. It costs just as much money to live in New York as it does in Washington, or Atlanta as it does in Washington, and I think we might
well give this authority to the President because it is a flexible authority, it gives time for study, time for classification of the position, and time to submit full data to the Appropriations Committee before any additional expense is incurred.
There is one other thing I want to say with regard to the question of the extension of civil service. Last summer Senator Mead and I were at the New York World's Fair, on the occasion of the Federal Employees' Day, and I sat at a luncheon next to the collector of internal revenue in New York City, in a district that collects more taxes perhaps than any other half dozen collection districts in the United States, and that collector told me that he had been able to effect a very remarkable increase in the collection of delinquent taxes after he had trained his forces. Of course, when the administration changed, a great many of those positions were changed. I have been told that throughout the country with the change of the administration the collection of delinquent taxes dropped off about 40 percent, and that with the lapse of time and the training of these employees who deal with the collection of taxes, we are now collecting almost 100 percent more in delinquent taxes annually than we were collecting prior to this administration, showing that experience and training does result in better service to the taxpayer and better service to the Government.
I do not think there is any question about the fact that dealing with taxes under our present governmental set-up, and with the complicated tax system that we have, is a type of work that certainly ought to be a career job. I have talked with a great many deputy collectors of internal revenue throughout the country, and numerous supervisors in that type of work. One man in Dallas, Tex., talked to me about it. He was a former road contractor and he took this position during the depression because he found road building at a standstill
. He gathered together a good force of men and trained them and, although he told me he did not expect to remain in the Government service himself, he was very much interested, and is still very much interested, in seeing that the men under him secured a civil-service status and that their experience and training be made available to the Government as a career.
I hope that the committee may see fit to report this bill, with such amendments as they find necessary, and that it may be passed by the Senate.
I do want to say this before I stop. The Keller-Nichols amendment, in my opinion, is not only unworkable but will not accomplish the purpose that the gentlemen who offered it had in mind. The Keller amendment without the Nichols amendment to it would have applied the apportionment to the future appointments, and to that I have no personal objection.
Senator BYRD. Mr. Congressman, will you designate exactly that part of the Keller amendment that is different from the Nichols amendment ?
Mr. RAMSPECK. The language “no person shall be covered into the civil service."
Senator BYRD. On what page?
Mr. RAMSPECK. On line 2 of page 3, Senator. That was substituted for some other language that was in the Keller amendment. Under the Keller amendment, as I recall it, the question of quota would not
have arisen as to the present incumbents of the positions, and I stated to Mr. Keller before he offered the amendment that I had no objection to that. I am personally in favor of the quota system, although I realize that it has some handicaps and that there are people who are intensely interested in the principles of the merit system who oppose it most strenuously, but I think that there is this to be said about it, that if the people back in the States feel they are not getting their fair share of the positions in Washington, we will lose their support for the merit system, but I do not think it is practical to apply the quota system to people who are already in the Government service, and I hope that the committee will straighten that matter out as they see fit, in their judgment and wisdom.
Í think that is all I want to say, sir.
Senator BYRD. I did not catch that clearly. What part is the Keller amendment?
Mr. RAMSPECK. The first part of it, Senator. It saysnotwithstanding any of the provisions of subsection (a), no person shall be covered into the civil service, appointed, transferred, or promoted to, any position covered into the classified civil service,
Senator BYRD. Is that the Keller amendment?
Mr. RAMSPECK. That is the Nichols part of the amendment. The Keller amendment, as I recall it, simply provided that in future appointments the quota system should be applied.
Senator BYRD. The actual language of the Keller amendment is not in here?
Mr. RAMSPECK. No, sir.
Mr. MITCHELL. May I suggest to the Congressman, Mr. Chairman, that the Keller amendment does not change the situation at all. If there was no Keller amendment, the apportionment would apply, "That amendment does not change the situation. We can go ahead and make new appointments on the apportionment system whether that is in there or not.
Mr. RAMSPECK. That is my understanding of it, and that is the reason I agreed to it, because I understood it would not change the existing law. The positions that would come under apportionment would come under it anyhow in future appointments.
Senator Mead. The existing law would apply to this expanded civil-service grouping that we take in.
Mr. RAMSPECK. Yes.
Senator MEAD. Mr. Chairman, with reference to the suggestion that we eliminate that part of section 2 requiring recommendation of department heads and compelling noncompetitive examinations for everyone, there is what might be termed a minor matter that might become involved. I know of a number of cases where a meritorious employee possibly could not pass an examination. One is crippled in the service and yet he was fitted into a position where he did excellent work. Another one is a little bit too old; he has been in the service for a long time. If there was some way in which they might be continued in the service, because of their meritorious service, without the necessity of passing an examination, it would be all right, and the power given to the department head would permit their continuation in the service even though they could not pass the examination, because of some meritorious service in the past.