The Associated Press’ Juliet Linderman tells the story of Mark Robbins and the Merit Systems Protection Board, “a quasi-judicial federal body designed to determine whether civil servants have been mistreated by their employers.”
The board is supposed to have three members, who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate to staggered seven-year terms. But the other two members of the board had their terms expire without being replaced, so Robbins, a Republican, is left as the only member and acting chairman.
Oh, and the board needs at least two members to decide cases, so Robbins’ is left to review grievance cases and just file them away until his term ends on March 1.
Why it matters: “Robbins is a one-man microcosm of a current strand of government dysfunction,” Linderman writes. “His office isn’t a high-profile political target. No politician has publicly pledged to slash his budget. But his agency’s work has effectively been neutered through neglect. Promising to shrink the size of government, the president has been slow to fill posts and the Republican-led Congress has struggled to win approval for nominees. The combined effect isn’t always dramatic, but it’s strikingly clear when examined up close.”
For Robbins, it means that months of work will go for naught. Whenever a new board is put in place, it will start fresh reviewing the cases he’s decided. His opinions will not be used.