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The Preventing a Patronage System Act cleared the full House in a vote of 225-204, showcasing an effort to prevent the possible return of the Trump-era Schedule F executive order.
The bill would prohibit future White House administrations from creating any new federal job classification without congressional approval, but the timing on the Senate’s version of the legislation remains uncertain.
Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), introduced a companion bill in August and applauded the passage of the bill in the House on Sept. 15. The lawmakers added that they will be pushing to follow suit in the Senate.
“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,” the senators wrote in a Sept. 15 press statement. “We’re glad to see the House of Representatives pass our bill to protect the merit-based hiring system for our federal workforce.”
“The civil servants who make up our federal workforce are the engine that keep our federal government running,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who introduced the bill, said in a Sept. 15 press statement. “The former President’s attempt to remove qualified experts and replace them with political loyalists threatened our national security and our government’s ability to function the way the American people expect it to.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the House majority leader, supported the bill, saying it “would protect the nonpartisan nature of our civil service by ensuring that presidents cannot simply fire federal workers by reclassifying them as ‘Schedule F’ employees.”
The Preventing a Patronage System Act initially came after former President Donald Trump’s October 2020 executive order to establish a new Schedule F job classification for federal employees. The executive order would have reclassified tens of thousands of federal workers in “policy-determining, policy-making or policy-advocating” positions in the new classification, makings them at-will employees. But President Joe Biden rescinded the order on his first day in office.
Democrats’ emphasis on passing the legislation came after Trump renewed his calls in July to revive the Schedule F executive order in a not-yet-official reelection campaign.
Many Republicans opposed the legislation, saying it would only protect poor-performing federal employees. Six Republicans, though, voted in favor of the bill.
Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) also submitted the Creating Schedule F in the Excepted Service Act as an amendment to the legislation, which would strike the full bill and replace it with legislation that Hice initially introduced in March. His bill aimed to revive some parts of the original Schedule F executive order. The amendment was not adopted.
Several federal unions and organizations supported the Preventing a Patronage System Act, including the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, the Senior Executives Association and the National Active and Retired Federal Employee (NARFE) Association, to name a few.
The House also passed two other bills on Sept. 15, the Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act and the Ensuring a Fair and Accurate Census Act.