A bipartisan group of congressmen pushed back May 1 against a Trump administration initiative to move administrative law judges out of competitive service and into a category that would allow agency leadership to select individuals for those positions.
Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md.; Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Richard Neal, D-Mass.; Rodney Davis, R-Ill.; Gerry Connolly, D-Va.; Danny Davis, D-Ill.; Bobby Scott, D-Va.; John Larson, D-Conn.; and Tom Cole, R-Okla., introduced the ALJ Competitive Service Restoration Act to restore the “status quo” prior to President Donald Trump’s July 2018 executive order recategorizing the positions.
“We are pleased to introduce this legislation to ensure the integrity and impartiality of decisions that affect the lives of millions of Americans,” the congressmen wrote in a statement.
“These decisions have a significant impact on their Social Security, Medicare, workers’ compensation and veterans’ benefits, as well as claims of discrimination, unfair labor practices and securities fraud. Lives would be disrupted if independent adjudicators were replaced by partisan judges whose appointments were based on politics. Congress would not be fulfilling its constitutional duty of oversight if it allowed the politicization of the corps of independent adjudicators who are responsible for protecting the due process rights of the American people.”
The legislation has received support from many federal employee and ALJ-specific organizations.
“Administrative law judges are very proud to serve the American public and take the responsibility of ensuring their due process rights seriously. We believe the public deserves a well-qualified, impartial administrative judiciary removed from political pressure,” said Judge Melissa McIntosh, president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges, in a statement.
“We are grateful to Chair Cummings and the other sponsors of the bill for their work. Decisions made about whether someone is eligible or not for a disability claim must be free of partisanship.”
This is not the first time members from both sides of the aisle have tried to overturn the July executive order.
Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced legislation in September that would also have restored ALJs to competitive service, but the bill never received committee votes.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.