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With Two Nominees, the MSPB May Soon Have Its Quorum

Two people may be on the way to replace the one person left on the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

President Donald Trump nominated two individuals to fill vacant spots at the MSPB Board during the first week of March: Andrew Maunz and Dennis Dean Kirk. Maunz was nominated to replace current member Mark Robbins, while Kirk was nominated as Chair. Both are Republican picks.

When Maunz was nominated for Vice Chair, there was some confusion because Robbins had been serving in that capacity as acting only. The original thought was Maunz and Robbins would serve together to create a quorum on the MSPB Board for the first time in over one year, though Robbins’ official term had come to an end as of March 1, 2018. The plan was Robbins would serve a one-year statutory carryover as Vice Chair, which made some people wonder if President Trump had made a technical error by nominating Maunz for Robbins’ post.

The confusion quickly cleared up March 8 when President Trump announced he was nominating Kirk to be MSPB Chair. With Kirk as Chair and Maunz as Vice Chair, Robbins would be able to depart before his one-year carryover ends March 1, 2019. Kirk and Maunz still need the Senate to confirm them in order to serve on the MSPB.  There is still the need for a Democrat, who would serve as Member.

MSPB Case Backlog

The fact that there may soon be a quorum on the MSPB should be encouraging news to those federal employees who are waiting for their appeals to be heard – a total that is in the hundreds, by all accounts, and still growing.

The cases have been piling up since Susan Tsui Grundmann resigned in January 2017, leaving Robbins as the only member of the Board. Without at least two people on the three-person Board, no opinions can be issued. That will change if Maunz and Kirk are confirmed.

The speed at which these appeals will be heard depends to a great extent on the sense of urgency on Capitol Hill. It took nearly 14 months for President Trump to nominate anyone for the two vacancies on the MSPB Board, and the Senate still has to hold committee hearings before Maunz and Kirk’s names come to the floor for a vote. Factor in 143 presidential nominations yet to be voted on by the Senate, and the wait time for Maunz and Kirk could be months.

Should they be confirmed (since there is always a possibility that they won’t), it will be interesting to see how Maunz and Kirk rule on the appeals before them. There has been a greater emphasis placed by the current administration on removing federal employees who are considered by their agencies to be deficient in their performance. Will their decisions reflect this policy?

At this point, the only certainty is that there are two nominees for the MSPB Board. Considering where the MSPB has been for the last 14 months, this is a step forward. Now, we wait for the next steps in this long process.

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