Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., led the group of Democratic senators that introduced the legislation.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., led the group of Democratic senators that introduced the legislation. Carlos Osorio / AP

Dozens of Senators Introduce Bill Blocking Trump’s Order to Politicize the Civil Service

Legislation from a group of 40 Democrats would rescind President Trump’s executive order creating a new Schedule F classification of federal employees without civil service protections.

A group of 40 Democratic senators introduced legislation on Wednesday that would rescind President Trump’s controversial executive order that threatens to convert large segments of the federal workforce into at-will employees and would block the administration from using federal funds to implement the order's provisions.

Last month, Trump signed an executive order creating a new Schedule F job classification within the excepted service for “confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions.” The directive instructs agencies to identify which positions qualify as policy-making across the federal government and transfer existing career workers into the new job classification, stripping them of their civil service protections and making them effectively at-will employees.

The order directs agencies to submit preliminary reviews of their workforces to identify which jobs should move to Schedule F by Jan. 19, one day before President-elect Biden’s inauguration. But OPM officials have told congressional staffers that if an agency submits its plan early, it would review and sign off on the plan before that date.

On Wednesday, a group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., introduced legislation to rescind the order, retroactive to Oct. 21, the day that Trump first signed the directive. It also would block all federal funds—regardless of the fiscal year in which they were authorized—from being used to implement the order’s provisions.

“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,” Peters said in a statement. “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 nonpartisan federal employees carry out this critical work.”

The Senate bill is simpler than its counterpart in the House. That bill, introduced by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, spells out a prohibition on agencies from converting any members of the competitive service into Schedule F, and provides for reinstatement and backpay for anyone who was fired after they were converted to the new job classification.

The Senate bill already has the support of good government groups and federal employee groups.

“Congress should move quickly to stop Schedule F in its tracks,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. “The executive order raises the risk of large-scale reclassification 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. 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.”

 Both federal employee unions and management associations are also behind the effort to rescind the Schedule F order. American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley called the directive “disastrous,” while Senior Executives Association Interim President Bob Corsi said it would undo more than a century’s worth of progress since 19th century politicians filled the federal government with cronies.

“The creation of Schedule F deeply undermines the apolitical, merit-based nature of our federal workforce,” Corsi said. “Rather than safeguarding our professional civil service, it reverts our government back to the spoils system of the 1800s. We appreciate recognition from Congress that this executive order is substantially flawed and must be repealed.”

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