Delaying Hatch Act changes criticized

FEDERAL WORKERS

April 28, 1993|By Carol Emert | Carol Emert,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- Sen. John Glenn chided a colleagu yesterday for "delaying tactics" aimed at preventing passage of the Hatch Act reform bill.

"I think this is just delay for delay's sake," said a visibly annoyed Mr. Glenn, D-Ohio.

He was referring to a letter yesterday morning from Delaware Republican Sen. William Roth.

The letter requested another hearing on reform legislation that would allow federal workers to participate in some political activities.

This bill has been argued "ad nauseam" in committee and on the floor of both chambers for several years, said Mr. Glenn, who chairs the Governmental Affairs Committee, which is handling the bill.

A similar bill passed Congress during the Bush administration, but President Bush vetoed it.

At Mr. Roth's request, the hearing scheduled yesterday already had been delayed several times, Mr. Glenn said. "I have bent over backwards every step of the way. . . . I have not tried to ramrod things through," said the usually mild-mannered former astronaut.

Mr. Roth has admitted that the bill probably would pass. He said he opposes it because it would politicize the federal work force and would cause the public to lose trust in government workers.

"It does not seem to me that one day [for one more hearing] is critical," he said.

Mr. Glenn said he has enough votes to pass the legislation now.

But a committee staffer said later yesterday that a hearing has been tentatively scheduled Friday.

President Clinton has promised to sign the bill, which would impose stricter limits on partisan political activities at federal work places while allowing government employees to participate more types of activities while off duty.

For example, federal workers would not be allowed to wear campaign buttons on the job, as they can now.

But they would be able to stuff envelopes for congressional or presidential candidates, an activity that has been forbidden since the Hatch Act was passed in 1939.

The bill also would impose harsher penalties -- up to three years in jail and a $5,000 fine -- on government employees who try to coerce their subordinates to participate in politics.

Federal workers still would be forbidden from soliciting campaign money from the public, under the law.

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