House Dems mull response Trump's order to remake the civil service

The presidential election is one obvious check on the recent executive order to reclassify many federal civil servants as at-will employees, but congressional Democrats are looking at other ways to block the new policy.

U.S. Capitol (Photo by M DOGAN / Shutterstock)

Democratic lawmakers, unions, federal employee associations and others expressed dismay and alarm about the Oct. 21 executive order from President Donald Trump proposing to do away with civil service protections for a large chunk of the federal workforce.

The order establishes a new classification called "Schedule F" to encompass federal employees who play key roles in determining government policy, have staffing roles in agency executive directorates or otherwise help steer their agencies.

While a Trump loss in the presidential election is one obvious check on the policy, some House Democrats are looking at legislative responses to block the reclassification.

"Our hope is that with a Biden administration we could roll this back, as well as other Trump administration attacks on the civil service," one Democratic staffer told FCW. "Looking at the December funding deadline and language prohibiting this change would also be an option. Senior congressional leadership is very focused on this and what it could mean for the civil service."

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, condemned the executive order, saying it would "overturn a 150-year-old precedent that created an expert non-partisan civil service and return us to the 'spoils system' of political governance." She added: "Congress must ensure President Trump isn’t allowed to politicize these critical policy positions."

Congress has two big tasks left this year: passing a funding bill by Dec. 11 to prevent a government shutdown and passing the National Defense Authorization Act by the end of the calendar year.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, put out a statement condemning the order, but didn't suggest using the must-pass defense bill as a vehicle for blocking its effect.

"I look forward to working with my congressional colleagues to rebuff the Trump Administration's actions against our federal workforce," Smith said. "Our federal government relies on these highly-capable career civil servants -- their competence must not be undermined in the name of loyalty to Trump."

Earlier this week, before the workforce executive order was released, Smith told reporters that conference committee finalizing the NDAA was on track to finish by early December.

The committee press office didn't return a request for comment on whether a policy rider cancelling the order in the NDAA was on the table. Last year lawmakers used the NDAA to block the proposed merger of the Office of Personnel Management into the General Services Administration.

Mike Hettinger, a former senior Hill staffer who lobbies on technology and acquisition issues, said that he thought the NDAA was an unlikely vehicle to register opposition to the order.

"There are enough issues that they're trying to resolve with the NDAA" without introducing the civil service executive order, Hettinger said. "It's more likely that you'd see them attempt to deal with it in the context of another continuing resolution."

Jeff Neal, a former federal human resources executive who blogs about workforce issues, called the order, "the most direct assault on the career civil service since the passage of the Pendleton Act in 1883," and suggested the number of jobs eligible for reclassification could be in the tens or even hundreds of thousands.

Neal told FCW that the schedule laid out in the executive order, which gives agencies until Jan. 19 to list jobs that fit the Schedule F classification, "makes large scale implementation highly unlikely."

If Trump wins re-election, Hettinger said, he would expect a more concerted effort on the part of Democrats, particularly in the National Capitol Region, to take steps to block the order legislatively, most likely in a funding bill.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.