On October 6, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs voted to advance President Biden’s three nominees for the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). The three nominations will now advance to a vote by the full Senate. If the Senate confirms the nominees, the MSPB will have a quorum for the first time since January 8, 2017.
The lack of a quorum at the MSPB has been catastrophic for federal employee whistleblowers. The MSPB oversees all federal employee whistleblower retaliation cases, and the three-member Board issues final rulings on these cases. Unlike other federal agencies, the MSPB cannot function with “acting” members filling in for political nominees. Thus, due to the lack of a quorum, the MSPB has not issued a final ruling on a single case in over four years. This has led to a massive backlog of thousands of cases at the MSPB, of which 774 cases are whistleblower retaliation cases.
The Committee’s vote followed a September 22 hearing in which the three nominees provided testimony and answered questions from Committee members.
The three nominees, Cathy Harris, Raymond Limon and Tristan Leavitt, were each voted on separately by the Committee. Each nominee was advanced, though by differing margins.
Cathy Harris, who is currently co-manager of the firm Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris, is the nominee to be the Chair of the MSPB. Her nomination was advanced by a vote of 7-6, with the 6 dissenting votes coming from the Republican members of the Committee. Republicans expressed concern over previous comments and tweets made by Harris which they claim are highly partisan.
Raymond Limon, the current Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Capital and Diversity and Chief Human Capital Officer at the Department of the Interior, is the nominee to be Vice-Chair of the MSPB. His nomination was advanced by a vote of 11-2. The dissenting votes came from Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Rand Paul (R-KY).
Tristan Leavitt, the current general counsel of the MSPB, is nominated to serve as a member of the MSPB. His nomination was advanced by a vote of 12-1. The sole dissenting vote came from Senator Paul.
A vote on the nominees by the full Senate has yet to be scheduled. Given the crisis at the MPSB caused by the lack of a quorum, whistleblower advocates continue to call for a quick confirmation process.
Watch the vote: Hearings | Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee