Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., is one of the sponsors of the bill.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., is one of the sponsors of the bill. House Television via AP

Bipartisan Bill Would Block Schedule F, Similar Future Efforts

The Preventing a Patronage System Act would require congressional action before transferring competitive service employees to a new job classification.

A bipartisan pair of House lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation that would block the Trump administration’s controversial effort to politicize the civil service, and require congressional approval of any future efforts to create a new federal job classification outside of the merit-based civil service.

Last October, President Trump signed an executive order creating a new Schedule F within the excepted service for employees “in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making and policy-advocating positions” and instructing agencies to transfer eligible competitive service employees to the new job classification, effectively stripping them of their civil service protections and making them at-will employees.

Federal employee groups and good government experts have all blasted the plan as an effort to politicize the civil service, undoing more than a century of federal employment law and potentially returning to the spoils system of the 19th century. Experts fear the order, which sets an initial deadline for identifying policy-making career employees of Jan. 19, could be used either to purge feds seen as insufficiently loyal to Trump or to quickly hire Republican partisans into the civil service before he leaves office next week.

Despite an expansive lobbying push from unions, organizations representing managers and senior executives, the Partnership for Public Service, former Office of Management and Budget employees and other public administration experts, lawmakers failed to include a provision barring Schedule F’s implementation as part of the omnibus spending package enacted last month. But Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., on Wednesday introduced the Preventing a Patronage System Act (H.R. 302), which would nullify the executive order.

The bill bars federal agencies from transferring any positions out of the competitive service and into a new job classification created after Sept. 30, 2020. Transfers to schedules A through E of the excepted service still would be allowed under the bill. The legislation also bars the transfer of positions from the pre-existing excepted service job classifications into Schedule F, or any subsequent newly created job classification.

“Congress has a responsibility to protect our civil service from returning to a failed patronage system,” Connolly said. “Our legislation will ensure no administration pursues a path that would allow the hiring of political cronies and allies at the expense of expertise and maintains protections for civil servants so they cannot be fired for standing up to political pressure.”

The prospects of legislation blocking the executive order appear better than they were last month, as Democrats gained control of the Senate with the victories of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the Georgia runoff elections last week.

“Employment in the federal workforce should 100% be based on merit, skill and experience, not on political connections,” Fitzpatrick said. “[The Schedule F executive order] undermines the hard work and dedication of so many career federal workers, who are dedicated to sound, evidence-based policymaking.”