September 15, 2022

Van Hollen, Kaine, Colleagues Applaud House Passage of Bill to Protect Merit-Based Federal Workforce System, Federal Workers’ Rights

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), along with Senators Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), to applaud House passage of the Preventing a Patronage System Actlegislation led by Senator Kaine to 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 system and safeguard tens of thousands of federal employees from losing job protections and due process rights.  

“From protecting our national security to administering Social Security benefits, our civil servants are invaluable to keeping our government running and providing critical services to Americans,” said the senators. “We’re glad to see the House of Representatives pass our bill to protect the merit-based hiring system for our federal workforce, and we’ll be pushing to follow suit in the Senate.”

Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.-11). It passed out of the House Committee on Rules on September 13 and passed the full House by a 225-204 vote.

The federal workforce is comprised of roughly 2 million federal employees hired on the basis of their acumen. They work each day for the American people — serving in a myriad of capacities to improve this nation and America’s posture abroad, including researching vaccines, helping families in the wake of hurricanes and deadly fires, and inspecting our food to ensure it is safe to eat.

On October 21, 2020, President Trump signed Executive Order 13957 creating Schedule F in the excepted government service. The excepted government service is any federal or civil service positions that are not in the competitive service or the Senior Executive Service. This executive order, had it not been repealed by President Biden in January 2021, would have allowed agency heads to reclassify “confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating” positions to a newly created Schedule F category of federal employees that would remove their due process rights and civil service protections. This would have undermined the merit system principles of our federal workforce, by making it easier for any administration to hire political loyalists and fire qualified nonpartisan experts. According to press reports, the Office of Management and Budget under Trump planned to reclassify 88% 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 nonpartisan experts.