By Adam Andrzejewski
The U.S. House of Representatives just passed H.R. 1, which adds a new paid holiday for federal employees every other year. It happens to be on the day the politicians themselves get elected.
This paid-time-off election perk is estimated to cost taxpayers around $818 million every other year, or at least $4 billion over the next 10 years. That is, if the U.S. Senate passes the bill and it’s signed into law by President Joseph Biden.
Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com read the 800-page H.R. 1 and found the new holiday for federal employees in Section 1909, “Election Day As Legal Public Holiday.” The provision kicks in next year and continues every two years covering both congressional and presidential election years.
Despite transparency promises, the new federal holiday wasn’t included in published versions of the legislation. It’s buried on page 16 of their 78-page “manager’s” amendment.
In the House, the bill passed without a single vote from a Republican and requires states to allow early voting for 15 days prior to election day, for “no less than 10 hours” each day, and to allow any individual to cast a ballot for any reason by absentee ballot by mail.
All these new provisions would strip the states of setting other own rules, and would also seem to mitigate the need for a new federal employee holiday.
Currently, the 10 annual paid vacation days for federal employees are:
- New Year’s Day, January 1.
- Martin Luther King, Jr’s Birthday, the third Monday in January.
- Washington’s Birthday, the third Monday in February.
- Memorial Day, the last Monday in May.
- Independence Day, July 4.
- Labor Day, the first Monday in September.
- Columbus Day, the second Monday in October.
- Veterans Day, November 11.
- Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Thursday in November.
- Christmas Day, December 25.
There’s also the extra Presidential Inauguration vacation day, given every four years to all federal employees on Jan. 20, regardless of whether they are affected by the festivities or thousands of miles away from them.
Previously, National Taxpayers Union estimated the cost of a federal holiday based on Office of Personnel Management data. The formula is total executive branch civilian non-Post Office annual payroll ($198.5 billion in FY 2019) divided by 260, the number of working days, plus a premium pay that is approximately 7.2 percent of base holiday pay.
RollCall.com reported the election day holiday idea has popped up before, but was stripped after Republicans, such as then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “lambasted the idea of giving Americans the day off.”
One report noted in 2019 the holiday was stripped because there were extended voting opportunities for federal employees.
McConnell said in January 2019, “Just what America needs, another paid holiday and a bunch of government workers being paid to go out and work, I assume ... [for] our colleagues on the other side, on their campaigns.” He called the effort the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.”
The office of Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), sponsor or H.R.1, didn’t respond to a request for comment by our deadline.
Text of H.R. 1: As it passed the House of Representatives.
Text of Manager’s Amendment folded into H.R. 1 when H.Res. 179 passed. See page 16, lines 1-10, for new Election Day Holiday.
“Government workers shun Trump, give big money to Clinton,” The Hill, 2016.
“The curious tale of the disappearing Election Day holiday bill,” The Fulcrum, 2019.
“Election Day: Frequently Asked Questions,” Congressional Research Service, 2021.