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Labor Board Budget Moves Get Federal Watchdog Scrutiny

April 25, 2018, 10:51 PM

The Government Accountability Office is looking into allegations that the Trump administration won’t let the labor board spend the money Congress gave it for this fiscal year.

“We’re aware” of the situation at the National Labor Relations Board and “we’ll be prepared within the next few weeks to give you a decision on that,” Gene Dodaro, the comptroller of the Government Accountability Office said April 25th during a hearing in the Senate. Dodaro responded to questioning by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

The Office of Management and Budget reportedly ordered agency heads at the NLRB not to continue spending their appropriated funds after April. Sources told Bloomberg Law the move was in response to a possible effort to take back some of the money allotted to the agency, through a little-used rescission process.

A pair of Democratic lawmakers have warned NLRB leadership that bypassing the legislature and freezing the money allotted to the board may violate the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act.

GAO enforces the law, which establishes Congress’ role in the federal budget process.

Dodaro: Package to Congress First Step

It’s generally improper for the president and executive branch to refuse to release funds that have been appropriated by Congress to any agency, Dodaro explained. A process for modifying the budget—sometimes called rescission—exists under the act, and requires the president to send a rescission package to Congress as the first step, he said.

The GAO is responsible for advising Congress about the possible effects of a rescission package; or to investigate claims or observations that the administration is unilaterally witholding funds.

President Donald Trump hasn’t sent a proposal to Congress, although news outlets have reported that the administration and OMB director Mick Mulvaney are working on a rescission. Some prominent Republican lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), have dismissed the rescission idea as a non-starter.

Dodaro’s comment suggests the GAO will likely deliver an investigation report aimed at answering whether the order to freeze funding was given, and an explanation if so, in the coming weeks.

The NLRB didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Hassan A. Kanu in Washington at hkanu@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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