Democrats revive anti-Schedule F bill, with a few tweaks and a new name

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) reintroduced bicameral legislation to prevent presidential administrations from reclassifying federal pos...

Congressional Democrats renewed their push to prevent any future version of the Trump administration’s Schedule F executive order.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced the Saving the Civil Service Act on Tuesday. The legislation aims to block presidential administrations from ordering agencies to reclassify federal positions outside merit system principles, unless given Congressional approval.

“Our federal employees should be loyal to constituents, they should be loyal to serving American citizens,” Kaine said in an interview with Federal News Network. “They shouldn’t be looking over their shoulder and feel like their livelihood is going to be put at risk because the President … got a whim one day and says … ‘I’ll get rid of you.’ Schedule F treats federal employees who are hardworking as if they’re expendable. It would be a horrible thing to do. That’s why I filed the bill.”

The bill will also “protect the merit-based federal hiring system and help ensure our federal workers are hired based on their qualifications, not their politics,” Kaine said in a press statement.

The legislation originated in the House, where Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) reintroduced the Saving the Civil Service Act on Tuesday as well. The House version of the bill is bipartisan and co-sponsored by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).

“The civil servants who make up our federal workforce are the engine that keeps our federal government running,” Connolly said in a press statement. “The former President’s attempt to remove qualified experts and replace them with political loyalists was a direct threat to our national security and our government’s ability to function the way the American people expect it to. Expertise, not political fealty, must define our civil service.”

The Saving the Civil Service Act is nearly identical to the Preventing a Patronage System Act, a previously introduced bill that sought to prevent a future Schedule F-type order from returning for the federal workforce. The new legislation marks the third attempt from Democrats to block a potential Schedule F.

The Preventing a Patronage System Act was included in the House’s version of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, but the bill was absent from the final version of the NDAA. Kaine told Federal News Network the NDAA is still the most likely option for the bill this year.

“Our best path to get this passed is to get it passed as part of the defense bill,” he said in an interview. “I think it could have gotten passed in the Senate on the floor, but we ended up not having a floor amendment.”

Kaine added that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has already committed to having a floor amendment process this year.

“We will get a vote on this,” Kaine said. “It’s going to be late in the year. We’re probably talking about no earlier than September, but we’ll work to get Republican votes. We wouldn’t get the majority of Republicans on this, but I know a number would also be very troubled by this.”

The executive order from the Trump administration, called Creating Schedule F in the Excepted Government Service, would have reclassified about 50,000 federal positions to make them at-will workers — therefore making it easier for agencies to terminate employees.

The excepted service in government includes federal and civil service positions that are not in the competitive service or the Senior Executive Service. Specifically, Schedule F targeted federal workers in policy-determining, policy-making or policy-advocating positions.

There are several differences in the new version of the anti-Schedule F bill, beyond just the new title. For one, the bill requires approval from the Office of Personnel Management before an agency can transfer an employee from the competitive service to the excepted service. And federal employees have to consent before an agency can transfer a position between services, or before an agency can reclassify employees into another excepted service schedule.

Additionally, the legislation caps how many transfers from the competitive service to excepted service that an agency can make during a four-year period. Specifically, the total number of transferred positions cannot exceed either more than 1% of the total number of employees at an agency, or five employees, whichever is greater.

Finally, the bill requires OPM to report to Congress annually with details of all positions that were transferred from the competitive to excepted service, as well as a justification for why each position was transferred.

“This would prevent future administrations from creating new employee classifications in order to hire more political loyalists and fire experts,” Kaine said in a press release.

Former President Donald Trump’s executive order initially said creating Schedule F would give agencies more flexibility to assess employees and candidates to fill policy-related positions, and would let agencies more easily remove poor-performing workers.

But the order quickly gained negative attention from lawmakers, unions and federal employee advocacy organizations.

Notably, the executive order came late in Trump’s term, and President Joe Biden rescinded the executive order during his first week in office, so the order was never fully implemented.

Although no federal position was officially reclassified, a Government Accountability Office report found that the Office of Management and Budget had taken some initial steps in the reclassification process. OMB had planned to shift 136 of its positions into the Schedule F classification — a request which OPM was able to approve before Biden revoked the order.

Additionally, the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission submitted a request to OPM to change five of its workforce positions to Schedule F. But Biden had revoked the order before OPM completed the review process.

Proponents of the legislation, including Kaine and Connolly, vowed to continue pushing to get the legislation enacted this Congress.

“[Schedule F is] clearly designed to reintroduce the spoil systems to civil service,” Connolly said at an American Federation of Government Employees conference on Feb. 13. “We’ve been fighting that since the adoption of the Pendleton Act in the 1880s … We haven’t won that fight. I got that bill passed in the House. But it didn’t survive the conference with the Senate. So we’re going to try again. And we won’t cease until we win, however long that takes.”

Many Republicans in Congress have expressed their support for a Schedule F-type policy, and Trump has said he would revive the policy if he is reelected.

The Senate’s version of the Saving the Civil Service Act has 13 Democrat co-sponsors, as well as one independent co-sponsor.


Copyright © 2024 Federal News Network. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Related Stories

    (Getty Images/iStockphoto/Jirsak)federal hiring

    Two agencies took initial steps to implement Schedule F, GAO finds

    Read more
    (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., is interviewed about the Relay, an electric autonomous vehicle, in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. The future of transportation arrived in northern Virginia, looking like a big blue toaster on wheels that can seat six and drive itself through the region’s notorious traffic.  State and local officials debuted the Relay system Thursday, an all-electric, autonomous vehicle that will provide free shuttle rides back and forth from the Dunn Loring Metrorail stop to the bustling Mosaic District in Fairfax County, Va.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

    Language to block future Schedule F absent from compromise version of NDAA

    Read more

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

    Read more