This was a vote on final passage of legislation requiring federal agencies to determine which employees are eligible to telecommute (work from home). The bill also required those agencies to designate an official to supervise telecommuting programs for federal employees.
Republicans had succeeded in making a number of changes to the bill through a motion to recommit. (A motion to recommit with instructions is the minority's opportunity to torpedo or significantly change a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure.) As a result of that motion to recommit having been passed, the bill the bill prohibited employees from engaging in collective bargaining activities while telecommuting. In addition, the measure required the head of each federal agency to certify that telecommuting or “teleworking” (working from home) policies would save the agency money before allowing employees to telecommute. The measure also prohibited federal employees from downloading pornography while telecommuting. Employees who were delinquent on their taxes, or who had been disciplined for poor work performance, would be barred from telecommuting.
(By including anti-pornography and anti-tax delinquency provisions in the motion to recommit, Republicans were able to gain the support for more than half of all House Democrats – even though most Democrats generally oppose restrictions on collective bargaining.)
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) urged support for the bill: “…Despite the evolving nature of the way the federal government conducts its affairs, telework, which allows an employee to regularly perform work from a remote location other than their usual workplace, continues to be underutilized by Federal agencies. Experience has consistently demonstrated that the private and public sector employers who utilize telework experience increased productivity and retention rates.”
Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) also praised the measure: “The private sector is doing this [allowing employees to telecommute], and they're recruiting people, using this as an opportunity for more flexible work arrangements. The Federal workforce should be doing the same thing. It will help to improve productivity and morale among the workforce. Those agencies that have taken full advantage of teleworking have shown that productivity has been enhanced within their agency.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) was the only member to speak in opposition to the bill. Issa, however, was the member who offered the motion to recommit described above. After the motion to recommit passed, he voted in favor of the bill (as he had vowed to do if and only if the motion to recommit passed). Thus, no Republican who voted against the bill spoke against it during debate. However, the House Republican cloakroom (run by House Minority Leader John Boehner) released a “statement of Republican policy” on the measure, which charged the bill would “mandate a new telework bureaucracy across the Federal government, designed in large part to quash any managerial opposition to teleworking.”
The statement also read: “…House Republicans are concerned that Congress would place a priority on legislation that attempts to alter policies for employed Federal workers rather than focus on legislation necessary to help the thousands of Americans who are looking for any employment.”
The House passed the bill by a vote of 290-131. 245 Democrats and 45 Republicans voted “yea.” 129 Republicans and 2 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation requiring federal agencies to determine which employees are eligible to telecommute (work from home), and designating an official to supervise telecommuting programs.