Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is one of the senators in a tough re-election race who still opposed the executive orders.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is one of the senators in a tough re-election race who still opposed the executive orders. Jeff Roberson / AP

As Lawmakers Renew Push for Repeal, OPM Says Workforce Orders Are What Feds Want

Vulnerable Senate Democrats say orders undermine merit system principles and reduce accountability.

As several high-profile Democrats pushed the Trump administration to rethink its executive orders reshaping the civil service, an official took to the airwaves to say the measures actually represented the will of the federal workforce.

Last week, Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., called on President Trump to rescind the orders issued in May, saying they would lead to “less accountable management and greater inefficiencies at a higher cost.” While the pushback from Democrats on the workforce orders has been swift, the newest letter is noteworthy in that all three of the signatories are from states that voted for Trump in the presidential election and are facing tough reelection battles in November. The lawmakers have occasionally been hesitant to take public stances against Trump, who remains popular in their states, and did not offer their signatures on a previous letter signed by 45 other Democrats in the upper chamber.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, also up for re-election in a Trump state this year, is now the only member of the Democratic caucus not to sign on to either of the two letters.

In the new letter, the senators noted federal employees “deserve our respect and support” and said the orders would “undermine agency obligations.” Trump issued three workforce orders in May: One was aimed at reining in the use of official time, another has limited unions’ negotiating power during collective bargaining and a third altered the federal firing process by streamlining performance improvement plans and exempting adverse personnel actions from grievance procedures.

“These orders exclude federal workers' representatives from engaging in good faith negotiation efforts, enable agencies to ignore the rights of employees and actively undermine the ability of employees to be protected from any discriminatory or unfair practices by agency management officials,” the senators said.

On an appearance on Government Matters that aired Sunday, Office of Personnel Management Deputy Director Michael Rigas defended the orders, saying federal employees themselves advocated for the changes.

“In a lot of ways, these executive orders and the guidance we are offering are in response to what federal employees are telling us,” Rigas said, citing the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and a Government Executive Media Group flash poll. “There’s a need out there, and federal employees themselves recognize it, to reform the process.”

The unions, however, do not agree. A federal judge has consolidated several lawsuits put together by more than a dozen labor groups challenging the constitutionality of the orders. A motion hearing is scheduled for the case later this month. In the meantime, federal agencies have begun implementing provisions of the orders. Unions have reported that agencies are pursuing evictions and other actions to strip labor representatives of the access they require to conduct representational work.

“We request that you direct agency and department heads to cease and desist from taking any actions that would abrogate their responsibilities under existing law and collective bargaining agreements, and encourage you to rescind these executive orders,” the senators said.

They argued that employees and managers should be held accountable, but “the imposition of time limits and other significant restrictions” on employees’ ability to engage in official time actually undermined that goal. Additionally, they said the firing order would infringe on “the merit system principles that govern the civil service” and hurt the morale of the workforce.

Rigas said that employees hired as doctors and nurses at the Veterans Affairs Department, for example, should be focusing on their patients and not on activities related to their unions. He said morale issues would be addressed through the administration’s proposed workforce modernization fund, which would reward high-performing employees or those with skill sets in hard-to-fill jobs. The White House has proposed $1 billion for the fund, but Congress has shown little interest in authorizing it.

The letter from Heitkamp, McCaskill and Tester, all of whom sit on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is just the latest in a series of actions from members of both parties to block the orders. A group of 21 House Republicans sent a letter to Trump asking him to reverse course, which was followed by a similar letter from 130 House Democrats. A bipartisan group of current and former lawmakers recently filed a brief in support of federal employee unions’ legal challenge to the orders.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.