Republican lawmakers are once again making a push that would allow the government to fire bureaucrats more easily.
For the third time since 2016, members of the House introduced a bill to make all federal employees “at-will” workers. That means agencies would be able to more quickly remove employees for underperforming or behaving in a manner that goes against federal rules.
“My bill would make all federal bureaucrats at-will employees — just like private sector workers — and claw back the inordinate protections some federal employees grossly abuse while helping legitimate whistleblowers and victims of discrimination get the justice they deserve. This would empower federal agencies to swiftly address misconduct and remove underperforming employees, creating a workforce that once again serves the American people,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas).
The bill would abolish the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), an entity created to protect federal workers against partisan political practices by hearing employee appeals.
The legislation would make it harder for federal employees to appeal firings on the basis of retaliation or discrimination.
Previous iterations of the bill, which were introduced during the Trump administration, all failed to pass Congress. Those bills did not go so far as to completely abolish the MSPB, but rather limited what could be appealed to that board.
Under the new bill, employees would get 14 days notification of their proposed termination. An agency official, who is not the one who proposed the original termination, would review the proposed firing and may conduct a hearing. From there, the deciding official will determine if the termination will proceed. The final decision cannot be appealed except by the president.
Federal employee advocates spoke out against bills like Roy’s in the past. In 2016, the National Federation of Federal Employees issued a statement against making federal workers at-will employees.
“The due process protections federal employees receive were established with the specific purpose of increasing government efficiency and protecting against political patronage systems,” the organization wrote. ”It would allow for federal managers to fire any employee at any time for any reason. Anything from a disagreement over sports allegiances to ideological differences, leaving the terminated employee no option for appeal. Worse yet, managers could fire entire departments only to replace employees with friends and families.”
The bill is unlikely to make it into law as Republicans are the minority in both legislative houses.