New House bill would block future administrations from using Schedule F, or anything else like it

Two House lawmakers are renewing efforts to block the Trump administration — and any other future administration for that matter — from moving positions out of the career civil service.

Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) have introduced new legislation to prevent future administrations from reclassifying career civil service positions.

The bill, called the “Preventing a Patronage System Act,” is also designed to block President Donald Trump’s Schedule F executive order.

“Employment in the federal workforce should 100% be based on merit, skill and experience, not on political connections,” Fitzpatrick said. “[The Schedule F executive order] undermines the hard work and dedication of so many career federal workers, who are dedicated to sound, evidence-based policymaking.”

The executive order, which President Donald Trump signed last month, gives agency heads the authority to reclassify certain confidential, policy-making, determining or advocating positions from the career competitive service to a new class in the excepted service known as Schedule F.

It also allows agency heads to hire or fire employees to these appointments at will. And it applies to existing career federal positions and future ones, meaning current employees in certain policy-making roles could lose their civil service protections.

Unlike previous legislation that attempted to block Trump’s executive order, this latest bill makes no mention of Schedule F.

Instead, it simply prohibits agencies from reclassifying any civil service position into an excepted service schedule created after Sept. 30, 2020. Trump signed the Schedule F executive order on Oct. 21.

Agencies can still reclassify civil service positions into schedules A through E, the five excepted service schedules that existed before the end of fiscal 2020, according to the legislation.

“Congress has a responsibility to protect our civil service from returning to a failed patronage system,” Connolly said. “Our legislation will ensure no administration pursues a path that would allow the hiring of political cronies and allies at the expense of expertise and maintains protections for civil servants so they cannot be fired for standing up to political pressure.”

The new bill comes less than one week before the Jan. 19 deadline agencies have to submit initial rosters of potential candidates for possible reclassification to the new Schedule F.

At least one agency has already submitted a roster of possible Schedule F candidates to the Office of Personnel Management for review and approval. The Office of Management and Budget found 88% of its employees are eligible for Schedule F.

Other agencies were preparing their own lists to submit to OPM late last year. But it’s still unclear whether OPM will approve those positions for reclassification before the incoming Biden administration takes the reins on Jan. 20.

Meanwhile, some federal employee groups and Democrats have been pushing Congress to take decisive action and block the Schedule F executive order.

Separate groups of House and Senate Democrats introduced their own legislation last year designed to block implementation of the Schedule F executive order.

But the 2021 omnibus spending package, which Congress passed into law late last year, didn’t include language blocking Schedule F as some Democrats had hoped.

Connolly and Fitzpatrick’s new bill has support from a wide array of federal employee groups, including the American Federation of Government Employees, National Treasury Employees Union, Senior Executives Association and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association.

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