WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two Democratic senators filed an amendment to the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act that would ban the widespread reclassification of federal civil service positions to political appointees — known as the Trump administration’s “Schedule F” plan.
Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Tim Kaine of Virginia proposed the amendment to ensure career federal employees could not be hired or fired on the basis of political preference.
“Career federal employees have protections in place to prevent any one administration from firing them and replacing them with political appointees,” said Feinstein in a statement. “This is absolutely critical to ensure our government operates effectively.”
The move comes as time quickly runs out for Congress to evade a shutdown and pass its annual funding bills. Amid other swirling priorities, banning Schedule F has gained momentum over the last month. Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives passed the amendment’s underlying legislation, Preventing a Patronage System Act, sponsored by Rep. Gerry Connolly, (D-Va.).
On Oct. 21, 2020, former President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13957, allowing agency heads to convert a broad swath of federal positions to a newly created Schedule F category. These employees would not be covered by civil service protections that protect against arbitrary termination.
New presidents can make about 4,000 political appointments, about 1,200 of which must be confirmed by the Senate. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget under Trump planned to reclassify 88% of its 2 million-strong workforce under Schedule F.
The Executive Order was then repealed by President Joe Biden in January 2021, thus never taking effect. However, Democrats in Congress have continued to push for legislation that would prevent a future attempt to reinstate Schedule F or something similar.
“Our civil service plays an invaluable role in everything from our national security to the administration of Social Security benefits,” said Kaine in a statement. “It’s in Americans’ best interest that those positions be filled with the most qualified applicants. That’s why we are pushing for commonsense safeguards to protect the merit-based hiring system for our federal workforce, and I urge all of my colleagues to join us in this effort.”
Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.