The west front of the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 2, 2020.

The west front of the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 2, 2020. Susan Walsh/AP

Good Government Group Urges Feds to Lobby Congress Against Schedule F

In a rare move, the Partnership for Public Service asked the public to contact lawmakers to muster opposition to the Trump administration’s effort to politicize the federal civil service.

A nonprofit organization focused on civil service reform on Thursday took the rare step of encouraging federal employees and members of the public to contact their lawmakers in Congress to lobby them to take action to halt implementation of a controversial executive order that could strip the civil service protections of potentially hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

In October, Trump signed the executive order establishing a new Schedule F within the excepted service for employees “in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making or policy-advocating” positions and instructing agencies to transfer career federal employees who meet that description into the new job classification, effectively converting them into at-will employees who can be fired without cause. The order also has the potential to allow the outgoing administration to more easily install partisans who could then burrow into the career civil service.

The reaction from federal employee groups—including both unions and associations representing management officials—as well as good government experts has been nearly unanimously in opposition to the plan, which they say undoes more than a century of federal civil service laws beginning with the 1883 Pendleton Act.

Now, the Partnership for Public Service is encouraging people to contact their lawmakers to insert a provision in the omnibus spending bill currently under negotiation to block the executive order’s implementation. It’s an unusual move for the organization, which until now has largely sought to avoid partisan battles.

“Simply put, this order threatens the integrity of the professional, nonpartisan civil service—a core feature of American government since the late 1800s—as it could replace tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of career civil servants with officials who would essentially act as political appointees,” the email states.

The Partnership’s president and CEO Max Stier has similarly tried to stay above the din of entrenched political battles that occur so often in Washington, instead seeking to help administrations of both parties improve how federal agencies function. But on Sunday, he published a column in USA Today arguing that Trump wants to “ruin our merit-based federal jobs system.”

“This new executive order, drafted secretly without informing or consulting with Congress and relevant employee groups and other stakeholders, is an assault on our civil service, the core to our system of government and democratic institutions,” Stier wrote. “Congress should act now on a bipartisan basis to reassert its legislative authority and stop this irresponsible executive order, and the incoming Biden team should prioritize undoing this attack on the capability of our government.”

The organization’s email directs recipients to the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association’s website, which features a form letter to send to lawmakers as well as a script for contacting congressional offices by phone.

“A competitive, merit-based civil service provides continuity through changing administrations, preserves institutional knowledge and expertise within the federal government, and safeguards the rule of law,” NARFE wrote on its website. “Write your members of Congress today and ask them to block this order, which undermines the integrity of our civil service.”