Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) to introduce the Preventing a Patronage System Act, a bill that would prevent any position in the federal civil service from being reclassified outside of merit system principles without the express consent of Congress. The bill would secure the civil service and protect tens of thousands of federal employees from losing job protections and due process rights.
“Workplace protections for federal workers exist for a reason: so any one administration cannot fire career employees and install their own political appointees,” said Senator Feinstein. “Career federal workers are committed to public service and serving the greater good, and they fulfill a range of critical roles from protecting national security to bolstering our nation’s pandemic response to safeguarding our communities. These career federal employees must be protected from politics so they can do their jobs, and that’s what our bill would accomplish.”
“Our civil service plays an invaluable role in everything from our national security to the administration of Social Security benefits, and it’s in Americans’ best interest that those positions be filled with the most qualified applicants,” said Senator Kaine. “This legislation would put commonsense safeguards in place to protect the merit-based hiring system for our federal workforce, and I urge all of my colleagues to join us in supporting it.”
“Our career, non-partisan public sector workforce is one of our nation’s greatest assets. The last thing we need is for a president to fire dedicated and experienced public servants and replace them with sycophants and grifters without the skills to carry out the functions of government within the rule of law,” said Senator Cardin. “From health care to national security, education to public safety, nearly every sector of American society will suffer greatly if a future president is given the latitude to blindly wipe away the professional expertise of our nation’s civil servants.”
“Our federal civilian workforce provides Americans with crucial services every day,” said Senator Van Hollen. “And keeping partisan politics out of our civil service is crucial to upholding its integrity and maintaining an efficient and effective federal government. This common-sense legislation will ensure the integrity of our merit-based civil service system and safeguard it from being used as a political punching bag.”
The federal workforce is comprised of roughly 2 million federal employees hired on the basis of their acumen who work in a range of capacities from researching vaccines to rebuilding communities after disasters to ensuring our food supply is free of disease.
On October 21, 2020, President Trump signed Executive Order 13957 that would have allowed agency heads to reclassify a broad swath of positions to a newly created Schedule F category, stripping many career federal employees of their due process rights and civil service protections. This would have undermined the merit system principles of our federal workforce, as it would have made it easier for any administration to hire political loyalists and fire qualified experts. The Executive Order was repealed by President Biden in January 2021 and never took effect.
According to press reports, the Office of Management and Budget under Trump planned to reclassify 88 percent of its workforce under Schedule F. Trump reportedly plans to reinstate Schedule F immediately if reelected to the presidency, which would allow him to fire up to 50,000 federal workers and replace them with political hires.
Currently, new presidents can make about 4,000 political appointments, approximately 1,200 of which must be confirmed by the Senate. Trump’s move could increase the number of political appointments from 4,000 to approximately 50,000.
The Preventing a Patronage System Act would prevent any position in the competitive service from being reclassified to Schedule F pursuant to President Trump’s Executive Order signed on October 21, 2020. This would prevent future administrations from creating new employee classifications in order to hire more political loyalists and fire experts.
The legislation is endorsed by American Federation of Government Employees, National Treasury Employees Union, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, Senior Executives Association, National Federation of Federal Employees, Professional Managers Association, American Society for Public Administration, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, National Weather Service Employees Organization, Patent Office Professional Association, United Power Trades Organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute, Civic Leadership Education and Research Initiative, Project Blueprint, FAA Managers Association, National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys and the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.
Full text of the legislation is available here.