THE IMPACT THE “HOLMAN RULE” COULD HAVE ON FEDERAL BUSINESS
The federal trade press lit up this week with headlines about the potential revival of the “Holman Rule” that would allow Congress to cut funding for specific projects or people. Although any cuts would have to pass both the House and the Senate, a chamber still controlled by Democrats, the revival of the rule could pose a distraction that impacts the pace of federal business. A NextGov article explains that House members could use the authority to go after agencies like the FBI or to zero-out funding for specific federal investigations. Specific personnel who have drawn the ire of the House members could also be targeted, whether political appointees or careerists. While the Holman Rule has been around since the 19th century, it was largely dormant from 1983 until 2017 when Republican lawmakers raised the specter of using it to reign in the Congressional Budget Office or the Department of State. It was repealed in 2019, but, given the strong partisanship evidenced by the debacle on electing a Speaker of the House, it is easy to see how the rule could be used to at least harass people or delay federal programs. Contractors should anticipate potential trouble on any high-profile project or in agencies, such as DHS, where the agency head may find themselves at loggerheads with House Republicans. The Holman Rule is not supposed to be used to inhibit future actions that could happen. Similarly, it is highly unlikely that use of the rule would actually result in any diminished appropriations. That may not matter, however, as the threat of the rule could be enough to make an impact on agency decision making. Contractors should definitely understand how the rule could impact their business and ensure that their elected officials understand what federal contract business means to their district.