Biden Promises Pay Raises for Feds, Vows to Rely on Civil Servants' Expertise
The former vice president and current Democratic frontrunner blames Trump for "hollowing out" agencies.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has promised to trust the career federal workforce and rely on its expertise, a group he said the Trump administration has unfairly scapegoated and targeted.
Federal employees comprise the “world’s most innovative minds” and have been subject to politically motivated attacks by President Trump, Biden said in a letter spelling out his commitments to the civil service. He criticized Trump for mismanaging agencies and allowing vacancies to pile up, vowing to recruit and hire quickly to restore agency rolls.
The former vice president, a leading contender in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination after a dominating victory in South Carolina Saturday, also promised “consistent and regular” pay increases for feds and said he would enable them to freely organize and collectively bargain, giving them a voice in the workplace.
“To call the Trump administration’s management of the federal government a fundamental misunderstanding of how it works would be generous,” Biden said in a letter to Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., who last week asked all Democratic campaigns what actions they would take to empower the federal workforce in a post-Trump era. “By hollowing out the ranks of federal agencies and using employees as scapegoats for problems in the government, this administration has demonstrated a level of cynicism that undermines who we are as a people and what we strive to accomplish.”
Wexton endorsed Biden after publishing his response.
Biden said he consistently leaned on and learned from career federal employees throughout his time as a senator and vice president, vowing to again depend on their expertise as president.
“A strong, healthy, supported federal workforce is essential to the success of any administration, and as president, I will not be able to do my job without them,” he said.
He called feds “the most talented, hard-working and inspiring people I have ever met.”
“I personally benefited from their expertise and professionalism as vice president, and we need more of them,” he said.
Biden said as president he would encourage any employees who left government under Trump to return to service. He also said he would boost recruiting at historically black colleges and universities, and would specifically ensure vacancies in the diplomatic and development core were filled. He promised to empower feds to “restore our standing in the world and keep our government running.” He also highlighted his plan to provide $10,000 in student loan forgiveness for every five years they work in public service.
He criticized Trump for allowing the longest shutdown in history, promising to never make federal employees suffer the same fate under his presidency. Federal workers also endured a 16-day shutdown during the Obama-Biden administration.
“As president, I will provide agencies with the funding they need, respect the independence and rely on the expertise of career civil servants, and highlight their work as crucial to our government’s functioning,” Biden said, adding he would treat federal workers with “the utmost dignity and respect.”
In a speech last year, Biden praised public servants as the "lifeblood of democracy" and called on them to weather the "storms" of the Trump administration.
While painting in broad strokes, Biden’s letter marked only the second Democratic presidential candidate to unveil plans for the federal workforce and agency management of the 2020 cycle. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., previously unveiled a specific plan related to reforming the government and empowering civil servants. Her priorities included filling vacancies, improving the hiring process, boosting the Senior Executive Service ranks and enforcing new, stricter ethics rules for those serving in government.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has said he would give federal employees the right to strike, and has earned the endorsement of the American Postal Workers Union.