House Panel Advances Bill Aimed at Preventing Future Schedule F Efforts
The measure would require congressional approval for any efforts to add new classifications of jobs outside of the federal government’s competitive service.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to advance legislation that would block efforts by future presidents to unilaterally exempt portions of the federal workforce from civil service protections.
The Preventing a Patronage System Act (H.R. 302) was introduced by Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., in response to former President Trump’s effort to establish a new Schedule F within the excepted service for federal employees in policy-related positions and strip them of their civil service protections.
Schedule F, which was enacted via executive order just weeks before the 2020 presidential election, was universally panned by federal employee unions, management and executive groups, and good government organizations, who decried the measure as a gutting of over a century of federal employment law and a return to the 19th century spoils system. Ronald Sanders, Trump’s appointee to chair the Federal Salary Council, resigned in protest of the decision, which he described as a “smokescreen” to require federal workers’ “political loyalty” to the president.
Although some agencies submitted proposals for the reclassification of employees, including the Office of Management and Budget, which proposed moving 88% of its workforce to Schedule F, no employees were successfully moved to the new job classification before President Biden rescinded the order on Jan. 22.
Connolly and Fitzpatrick’s bill prevents any president from unilaterally creating a new schedule within the excepted service, effectively forcing the executive branch to request that Congress make any additions via legislation.
“We’re trying to restore the balance between the branches of government and reasserting the role of Congress in controlling, in this case, the civil service protections system,” Connolly said. “[Future] administrations should be required to come to Congress before making such sweeping changes to the workforce. If Congress concurs, then you can go ahead, but Congress would have to create those new excepted schedules in statute at the request of the executive.”
Republicans on the committee argued that Schedule F was merely an attempt to make it easier for supervisors to “discipline poor performers,” and railed against “unelected bureaucrats” thwarting the Trump administration’s efforts to implement new policies.
“The Trump administration did not create Schedule F to reinstitute a patronage system,” said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky. “If he wanted to do that, he could have converted Schedule F employees into the same political employees in Schedule C. It merely made it easier to discipline or remove civil service officials in policy roles that are poor performers or actively work to undermine the work of their politically accountable supervisors.”
Schedule C is currently reserved for political appointees with “a close and confidential working relationship” with agency heads, and each appointment requires case-by-case permission from the Office of Personnel Management.
Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., proposed an amendment that deleted the entire text of Connolly’s bill, and replaced it with a bill that would codify Schedule F as federal law.
“At the end of the day, that’s what is needed,” Hice said. “[Federal employees’] job is to lend an elected president all of the benefits of their areas of expertise in helping the president to implement the voters’ mandate. It’s not to stand in the way of those initiatives and to block the implementation of the mandates. Schedule F restores that kind of balance, and my amendment makes sure that balance is maintained.”
Connolly opposed Hice’s amendment, and argued that it actually conceded that a bill like this is needed.
“It’s important that we’re not saying that no president can do this,” he said. “We’re saying that there’s a process, and you’ve got to come to Congress, because we have a mandate, we’re elected too . . . And I’d point out that there’s a certain irony in Mr. Hice’s proposed substitute. He would codify Schedule F, which is an implicit concession to the point that Congress ought to give its approbation if we’re going to have a new [job] schedule, and that’s precisely the point of my bill.”
The bill now goes to the House floor for consideration by the full chamber.