Senate Democrats are joining efforts to advance a legislative ban on the reclassification of federal employees to an unprotected job class without the approval of Congress.

This concept was first put forth by former Republican President Donald Trump, whose Schedule F plan would’ve excepted groups of federal employees from job protections otherwise guaranteed by the merit-based civil service. Two agencies submitted requests to the White House’s Office of Personnel Management to reclassify. Ultimately, Schedule F never took effect, but it was enough to motivate Democratic lawmakers to draft legislation barring future attempts.

On Feb. 14, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., introduced the Saving the Civil Service Act as a companion bill to one introduced in the House.

“Our dedicated federal workers help keep our government running, protect our national security, and provide essential services to Americans like administering Social Security benefits,” said Kaine in a statement. “I’m introducing legislation to protect the merit-based federal hiring system and help ensure our federal workers are hired based on their qualifications, not their politics.”

The bill forbids a position in the competitive service from being placed in any new schedule and would also require the permission of the Office of Personnel Management and the employee affected. It also stipulates that during a presidential term, an agency may not transfer more than 1% of its employees or five total employees to the excepted service, whichever is greater.

Every year by mid-March, OPM would also be legally required to tell Congress which positions were transferred and why.

Kaine’s bill is sponsored by 14 other Senate Democrats.

“In Congress, I am committed to strengthening our federal workforce and protecting our dedicated civil servants from partisan gamesmanship,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger at a Feb. 13 event hosted by the American Federation of Government Employees, a union representing more than 700,000 employees. “I will continue to oppose bad-faith legislation and other efforts that denigrate the federal workforce ...”

President Joe Biden, a Democrat, overrode the Trump executive orders establishing Schedule F as one of his first acts as president in 2021, though reports by Axios say Trump would try to bring it back if he wins reelection.

In September, Federal Times reported that House voted to pass a bill sponsored by Rep. Gerry Connolly, (D-Va.), that would similarly shield the federal workforce from Schedule F.

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.

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