November 18, 2020

Van Hollen, Cardin, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Block Trump’s Effort to Strip Civil Service Employees of Critical Protections

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-MD) joined Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and nearly 40 of their colleagues in introducing legislation that would block the implementation of an October 21 Executive Order by President Trump, which created a new classification for federal employees, Schedule F. This harmful executive order would make it easier for the Administration to fire non-partisan civil servants with policy expertise, in order to continue their efforts to politicize federal agencies. 

“From day one, President Trump has sought to politicize and undermine America’s merit-based civil service. This executive order is an even more damaging attempt to achieve that by giving the President the power to fire and replace nonpartisan civil servants with impunity,” said Senator Van Hollen. “Our bill would block this assault on our federal agencies and ensure that civil servants, including many Marylanders, can continue their work on behalf of the American people without blatant partisan political interference.”

“Our federal civil servants are invaluable in part because they do their job on behalf of the American people without paying heed to changing partisan agendas or influences. President Trump’s October Executive Order would erode this long-standing trust and create a dynamic in which high-level workers constantly need to look over their shoulders. Such action should be unthinkable and flatly rejected, which is why I am proud to stand together with my colleagues behind legislation that rejects the ill-advised creation of Schedule F,” said Senator Ben Cardin. 

“This recent executive order will not only strip protections away from hard-working, dedicated civil servants, but it also recklessly creates chaos and dysfunction during the ongoing pandemic and Presidential transition,” said Senator Peters. “Our country is facing a number of serious challenges that must be quickly and effectively tackled, from safeguarding our national security to addressing the Coronavirus pandemic – and non-partisan federal employees carry out this critical work. I am proud to lead this legislation that will prevent the Trump Administration from creating uncertainty for federal employees at a time when their work is incredibly important to protecting American lives.” 

“Congress should move quickly to stop Schedule F in its tracks. The executive order raises the risk of large-scale reclassifications and removals of civil servants over the next two months when our government should be focused on addressing the pandemic, aiding economic recovery and ensuring our national security,” said President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service Max Stier. “In the long term, the order will erode the merit-based, nonpartisan framework of the federal civil service, leading us back to the days of the spoils system and cronyism. Members of both parties should be alarmed.”

“President Trump’s executive order creating a new excepted service hiring authority, Schedule F, is just the latest in a series of actions by the president and his administration to undermine the apolitical civil service and take away fundamental workplace rights and protections from federal employees,” said American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley. “I commend Senator Peters for his leadership in introducing legislation to undo this disastrous executive order.” 

“The creation of Schedule F deeply undermines the apolitical, merit-based nature of our federal workforce. Rather than safeguarding our professional civil service, it reverts our government back to the spoils system of the 1800s,” said Senior Executives Association Interim President Bob Corsi. “We appreciate recognition from Congress that this executive order is substantially flawed and must be repealed. SEA endorses this legislation as a necessary check on executive power and a critical starting point for allowing Congress to regain control of the civil service.”

On October 21, President Trump signed an executive order that would allow agency heads to convert certain policy-centric positions to a new classification, Schedule F, where there is greater flexibility to fire those employees. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Acting Director Michael Rigas issued preliminary guidance on October 23 that suggests a broad interpretation of the types of positions that would be eligible for conversion. This has created concern that the Administration could fire civil servants and create uncertainty in federal agencies that are critical to protecting the nation’s national security and addressing the ongoing pandemic. OPM has still not answered basic questions regarding the development, implementation, and potential consequences of this hastily issued executive order. 

Senators Van Hollen, Cardin, and Peters were joined in introducing the legislation by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tom Carper (D-DE), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Doug Jones (D-AL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Kyrsten Simena (D-AZ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tom Udall (D-NM), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jon Tester (D-MT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Chris Murphy (D-CT).