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Labor Department Fails to Provide the Facts on WARN Act “Guidance”
Not the first time congressional oversight has been ignored

Nonpartisan budget experts have warned the country could plunge into another recession if steps aren’t taken to prevent massive tax increases and restore spending discipline in Washington, D.C. House Republicans have taken action to stop looming tax hikes, reduce regulatory uncertainty, and help get our fiscal house in order. In stark contrast, President Obama and his Democrat allies continue to hold the economy hostage. To make matters worse, an administration that claims to be the “most transparent ever” is not responding to concerns raised by lawmakers.

A startling example involves the administration’s attempt to hide from workers the consequences of sequestration. In general, employers with at least 100 employees are required by the WARN Act to provide 60-day notices of mass layoffs or plant closings to affected employees. Since the president has offered few details about how he will implement indiscriminate spending cuts set to hit early next year, various employers have said they will begin sending WARN Act notices in November. In response, the Department of Labor stunned many when it issued misleading and incomplete ‘guidance’ that states the WARN Act would not apply to sequestration.

The department’s action was surprising because it does not enforce the WARN Act or possess the legal authority to issue advisory opinions in specific cases – facts even the department concedes. Yet that did not stop the president’s political appointees from taking this unprecedented step and creating more confusion for both workers and employers.

On behalf of the many workers and employers affected by the department’s decision, committee leaders requested by August 16 all documents and communications connected to the guidance. The committee has not received a response – more than a week past the deadline. The department hasn’t even bothered to explain why the deadline was missed and when a response can be expected.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the administration has failed to provide adequate answers to oversight requests. In fact, the administration’s record suggests a disturbing pattern of delay and obstruction on issues related to jobs, regulations, and spending. In recent months, the administration has neglected to offer timely responses on matters concerning:

  • The failure to post a regulatory agenda as required by law. Since 1980, federal agencies are required to biannually disclose economically significant regulations that are under development. The Obama administration has routinely failed to meet this legal obligation. The October 2011 agenda surfaced in January and the April 2012 regulatory agenda is still unavailable to the public. One can assume busy bureaucrats are crafting new regulations, which is why the committee submitted an inquiry into this lapse in legal responsibility. To date, the regulatory agenda and a response to the committee are both missing.
  • The president’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget. In March, Secretary Solis testified in support of President Obama's budget plan that includes $1.9 trillion in tax increases and $11 trillion in new debt. Since the secretary was unable to answer or provide a complete response to a number of questions, the committee submitted additional questions in writing. It took nearly 100 days for the department to deliver a response.
  • The demand that federal contractors achieve “hiring goals” the administration itself is unable to meet. Late last year, the Labor Department issued a proposed rule that would require federal contractors to set an arbitrary hiring goal for workers with disabilities. The regulation mirrored an effort underway across federal agencies, an effort the Government Accountability Office recently criticized for falling short of its stated goals. It appears the administration is coercing federal contractors to do something it can’t even achieve. The committee is eagerly waiting for a reply to its effort to obtain details and information concerning this flawed regulatory scheme.
The American people want leadership, not bureaucratic delay, obstruction, and secrecy. Putting our nation back on track is even more difficult when federal agencies refuse to cooperate with congressional oversight.

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