As Republican groups discuss plans to reinstitute the controversial plan to strip tens of thousands of federal workers of their civil service protections, congressional Democrats have renewed their efforts to block it.
Senate Democrats on Tuesday introduced legislation aimed at blocking Republican-led efforts to strip tens of thousands of career federal employees of their civil service protections.
In recent weeks, former White House aides from the Trump administration unveiled plans to immediately reinstitute Schedule F the next time a Republican is president. Schedule F was an ill-fated plan to find and reclassify the positions of tens of thousands of career federal workers in “policy-related” roles outside of the competitive service, stripping them of their civil service protections and making it much easier to hire and fire them. Trump, who is mulling another campaign for president, seemingly endorsed the plan in a recent speech.
Those involved in the effort to revive Schedule F have said they have already identified 50,000 federal employees who could be fired under the proposed new authority, although they hope terminating a fraction of that number would create a “chilling effect” to keep the rest in line. And last week, a group of conservative Republicans introduced legislation that would make all federal workers at-will employees.
Democrats in the House passed Rep. Gerry Connolly’s bill, the Preventing a Patronage System Act, as part of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act last month. And last Tuesday, a group of Democratic senators, led by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., introduced identical legislation. Senate appropriators also included a ban on Schedule F as part of its Financial Service and General Government spending bill.
The legislation, which is also sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both D-Md., prevents any position in the competitive service from being reclassified to Schedule F, and bars the president from creating new job classifications without congressional approval in advance.
“Our civil service plays an invaluable role in everything from our national security to the administration of Social Security benefits, and it’s in Americans’ best interest that those positions be filled with the most qualified applicants,” Kaine said. “This legislation would put commonsense safeguards in place to protect the merit-based hiring system for our federal workforce, and I urge all of my colleagues to join us in supporting it.”
The bill is endorsed by every major federal employee association, including the American Federation of Government Employees, the Senior Executives Association, the National Treasury Employees Union, the Federal Managers Association and the National Federation of Federal Employees.
“Workplace protections for federal workers exist for a reason: so any one administration cannot fire career employees and install their own political appointees,” Feinstein said. “Career federal workers are committed to public service and serving the greater good, and they fulfill a range of critical roles, from protecting national security to bolstering our nation’s pandemic response to safeguarding our communities. These career federal employees must be protected from politics so they can do their jobs, and that’s what our bill would accomplish."