A large coalition of Senate Democrats led by Gary Peters, D-Mich., introduced legislation Nov. 18 that would block President Donald Trump’s Oct. 21 executive order creating a new classification of excepted service feds.
The order mandated the creation of a Schedule F category for federal employees that perform policy-centered work, removing many protections those employees currently have to appeal removal from their job and enabling agency leaders to fill those positions without public competition.
“This recent executive order will not only strip protections away from hard-working, dedicated civil servants, but it also recklessly creates chaos and dysfunction during the ongoing pandemic and presidential transition,” said Peters in a news release.
“Our country is facing a number of serious challenges that must be quickly and effectively tackled, from safeguarding our national security to addressing the coronavirus pandemic — and non-partisan federal employees carry out this critical work. I am proud to lead this legislation that will prevent the Trump administration from creating uncertainty for federal employees at a time when their work is incredibly important to protecting American lives.”
Though agencies have until next year to begin identifying positions that could be converted to Schedule F, federal employee unions and good government groups worry that the executive order could be used to rapidly change up key government positions in the months before the Jan. 20 inauguration.
“The executive order raises the risk of large-scale reclassifications and removals of civil servants over the next two months when our government should be focused on addressing the pandemic, aiding economic recovery and ensuring our national security,” said President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service Max Stier.
“In the long term, the order will erode the merit-based, nonpartisan framework of the federal civil service, leading us back to the days of the spoils system and cronyism. Members of both parties should be alarmed.”
The bill would rescind Trump’s executive order and be retroactively effective Oct. 21, meaning that any conversions made between the executive order’s signing and the bill’s passage would be considered illegitimate.
“The new Schedule F federal employee category threatens the centuries-long integrity of nonpartisan professionals by forming a broad exception to the competitive civil service,” said National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association National President Ken Thomas in a statement.
“A competitive civil service provides continuity through changing administrations and ensures public servants’ primary allegiance is to the Constitution and laws of the United States rather than the individual temporarily holding the office of president.”
Both the Senior Executives Association and American Federation of Government employees offered their endorsement of the bill as a means of overturning Trump’s executive order.
Jessie Bur covers the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees.