Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who has made sharp reductions in the federal workforce a centerpiece of his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, offered more details on how he’d overcome employment protections in U.S. laws to achieve his goal.

“We are pointing out parts of the U.S. Code that expressly highlight that they don’t apply to mass layoffs,” Ramaswamy told NBC News before an America First Policy Institute event on Sept. 13. “Yes, they apply to individual employee firings, which is what they use to convince prior presidents, including Trump, that they couldn’t do it.”

He followed up by sharing more of his plans in a speech to the Institute, where he advocated for slashing the federal employee headcount by 75%, or more than 1 million people, rescinding a majority of government regulations and shutting down “redundant” agencies.

Ramaswamy’s initiative attempts to circumvent employment protections for broad swaths of civil servants. Similar efforts have been been met with fierce opposition by workers, unions and Democrats who are concerned that federal employees would be dismissed without due cause.

“This vision is not an original vision,” he said. “Good presidents — excellent presidents — from Reagan to Trump have spoken to the same ideal. And I give credit to Donald Trump for taking more steps than have been taken in a generation in the direction with the Schedule F exceptions they began late in the term.”

Legislation cropped up in May in the House to do something similar, and in June, lawmakers pushed to make it easier to discipline workers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Ohio native said these and other efforts have fallen short where they butt up against statutes that protect federal employees from being fired without evidence of poor performance or misconduct. It’s been the longstanding philosophy of the civil service that bureaucrats, hired on the basis of their merit, accompany appointees as a stable workforce to carry out essential services and withstand political churn.

“But if you actually read the U.S. Code in full, they don’t apply to mass layoffs they call reductions in force, he told NBC. “And large-scale reductions in force are absolutely the method that I’ll be using.”

Ramaswamy also said he’d look to let go of employees via executive action, circumventing the need to get approval from Congress, and predicted the Supreme Court, with its Republican majority, would support him 6-3 should his plan be met with legal pushback.

He has specifically mentioned shuttering the FBI, Department of Education, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Food and Nutrition Service.

The Office of Personnel Management, which effectively sets HR policy for the 2.2 million large civil service, says that each agency has the right to decide what positions are abolished, whether a reduction in force is necessary, and when it will take place.

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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