Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., left, speaks to an aide on Capitol Hill in May. Carper is one of several Democrats keeping an eye on Trump administration efforts to reclassify federal jobs into at-will positions.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., left, speaks to an aide on Capitol Hill in May. Carper is one of several Democrats keeping an eye on Trump administration efforts to reclassify federal jobs into at-will positions. Andrew Harnik/AP

Lawmakers Seek Watchdog Briefings on Schedule F Implementation

Democrats asked the Government Accountability Office to keep them informed of how the Trump administration is moving ahead with a plan to politicize potentially hundreds of thousands of federal jobs in the coming weeks.

A bicameral group of congressional Democrats on Monday urged a government watchdog agency to keep them in the loop on the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to strip civil service protections from potentially hundreds of thousands of federal employees in the waning days before President-elect Biden takes office.

Last month, 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,” where federal workers can be fired without cause. The directive instructs agencies to determine which career positions should move to the new job classification and submit preliminary plans to the Office of Personnel Management for approval by Jan. 19.

In a letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, the Democratic leadership of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee urged the Government Accountability Office to provide them with regular updates on the administration’s effort to implement the executive order before Biden takes office on Jan. 20. Signing the letter were Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.

“Although the executive order appears to help managers remove poorly performing employees, it fails to make use of a multitude of options recommended by experts to address the problem, including the Government Accountability Office,” they wrote. “Instead, the executive order contradicts 137 years of tradition and practice based on merit systems principles. For example, the executive order would erode due process protections for civil service employees and make it easier for the administration to fire qualified individuals who base their professional opinions on evidence, science and analysis.”

The lawmakers asked GAO for five briefings on the order’s implementation between now and Feb. 15, focused on agencies' reclassification requests to OPM, descriptions of the jobs OPM has approved for reclassification, as well as OPM’s process for reviewing and approving those requests.

Last week, the Office of Management and Budget became the first agency to submit their preliminary review to OPM for approval, slating 88% of its workforce for conversion into Schedule F. On Monday, E&E News reported that the Energy Department’s human resources department is “developing” a list of positions to submit for reclassification.

Meanwhile, lawmakers, federal employee groups and good government experts are pushing Congress to include language in its next appropriations package to block the executive order from being implemented. Bills in both the House and Senate would effectively nullify the order, and prevent the administration from using federal funds to implement it. And the National Treasury Employees Union has filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to block the directive from going into effect.

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