Bill to prevent Schedule F from resurfacing advances out of House committee

The House Rules Committee passed the Preventing a Patronage System Act favorably in a vote of 8-4 along party lines. Now, it moves to the full House floor.

Democrats on the House Rules Committee pushed forward an attempt to block the potential return of the Schedule F classification in federal service.

The Preventing a Patronage System Act gained more traction after committee members voted 8-4 along party lines on Sept. 13, advancing the bill to the full House. The legislation would block the White House from creating any new federal job classifications without Congress’ approval.

A now-rescinded executive order from the Trump administration, commonly known as Schedule F, sought to reclassify tens of thousands of federal positions, making them at-will employees.

The House also included the Preventing a Patronage System Act in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, after Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) proposed the legislation. Democratic senators introduced companion legislation on Aug. 2.

The White House supported the bill, highlighting President Joe Biden’s decision to revoke the Schedule F executive order on his first day in office.

“The bill would help preserve federal employee due process rights and civil service protections, while also preventing any administration from firing qualified experts and replacing them with political loyalists,” the White House wrote in a Sept. 13 Statement of Administration Policy.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman for the Oversight and Reform Committee, and a witness at the hearing, said that although Biden revoked the executive order, discussions around Schedule F continue to cause concerns for the federal workforce.

“Some agencies had already started the process of compiling their list of positions to convert to Schedule F,” Maloney said. “This history is important to remember, because there are some who want to pick up where the revoked executive order left off and codify this assault on the civil service program of our country.”

Some Republicans on the committee, though, said the legislation would make it difficult to discipline or terminate civil servants in policymaking roles for poor performance or insubordination.

But federal organizations like the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) urged Congress to quickly pass the legislation.

“Lawmakers must uphold the tenet that civil servants are hired and fired based on merit, not political affiliation, a practice that has served our country well since the late 1800s,” NARFE National President Ken Thomas wrote in a Sept. 13 statement.

The Senior Executives Association (SEA), the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys (NAAUSA) and the Professional Managers Association (PMA), all supported the Preventing a Patronage System Act.

Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act

In an 8-4 vote along party lines, the Rules Committee also favorably passed the Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act, which would “strengthen protections for federal employees who expose wrongdoing,” an Oversight and Reform Committee fact sheet stated.

The legislation would block federal employees from retaliating against any whistleblowing federal employee who shares information with Congress. It would also bar agencies from conducting retaliatory investigations against whistleblowers.

“Nobody should be able to interfere with or retaliate against courageous public servants who expose cases of wrongdoing — not senior level agency employees, not administration officials, not the president — no one,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the Rules Committee, said at the hearing.

But Republicans opposed the legislation, with many saying that the current system for protecting whistleblowers is already sufficient, and more regulations would only protect “bad actors” in the system.

“The bottom line is that whistleblowers in the government already have no shortage of protections from retaliation from their supervisor,” said Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the ranking member of the Oversight and Reform Committee, and a witness at the hearing. “At what point do we admit the obvious? Sometimes people will call themselves whistleblowers just to gain the protections Congress and the executive branch had already given them. At what point do we cross the line from simple repercussions to retaliation?”

Currently, there is no companion bill in the Senate, but the White House voiced its support for the act.

“If prospective whistleblowers do not expect to be protected, and instead fear job loss and further targeted punishment, they are deterred from raising concerns about misconduct, fraud or corruption. The bill would prohibit agencies from conducting retaliatory investigations against whistleblowers and establish new procedures to ensure that federal employees receive timely relief for their retaliation claims,” the White House wrote in a Sept. 13 Statement of Administration Policy.

The committee also passed the Ensuring a Fair and Accurate Census Act, which would prevent political interference in the Census Bureau, according to the Oversight and Reform committee.

Votes on the full House floor resume this week.


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