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Kaine Leads Introduction of Bill to Protect Merit-Based Federal Workforce System, Federal Workers’ Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) led his colleagues in introducing the Saving the Civil Service Act, legislation that would prevent any position in the federal civil service from being reclassified outside of merit system principles without the express consent of Congress. This bill would secure the civil service and protect tens of thousands of federal employees from losing job protections and due process rights. U.S. Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11) is introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Our dedicated federal workers help keep our government running, protect our national security, and provide essential services to Americans like administering Social Security benefits,” said Kaine. “I’m introducing legislation to protect the merit-based federal hiring system and help ensure our federal workers are hired based on their qualifications, not their politics.”

The federal workforce is comprised of roughly 2 million federal employees hired on the basis of their acumen, and they work each day for the American people — serving in myriad capacities to improve this nation and America’s posture abroad.  These impartial civil servants research vaccines, help families in the wake of hurricanes and deadly fires, and inspect our food to ensure it is free of disease.

On October 21, 2020, President Trump signed Executive Order 13957 creating Schedule F in the excepted government service. The excepted government service is any federal or civil service positions that are not in the competitive service or the Senior Executive Service. This executive order, had it not been repealed by President Biden in January 2021, would have required agency heads to reclassify “policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating” positions to a newly created Schedule F category of federal employees that would remove their due process rights and civil service protections. This would have undermined the merit system principles of our federal workforce, as it would have made it easier for any administration to hire political loyalists and fire qualified experts. According to press reports, the Office of Management and Budget under Trump planned to reclassify 88% of its workforce under Schedule F. Trump reportedly plans to reinstate Schedule F immediately if reelected to the presidency, which would allow him to fire up to 50,000 federal workers and replace them with political hires. Currently, new presidents can make about 4,000 political appointments, approximately 1,200 of which must be confirmed by the Senate. Trump’s move could increase the number of political appointments from 4,000 to approximately 50,000.

The Saving the Civil Service Act would prevent any position in the competitive service from being reclassified to Schedule F pursuant to President Trump’s Executive Order signed on October 21, 2020. This would prevent future administrations from creating new employee classifications in order to hire more political loyalists and fire experts.

In addition to Kaine, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Tom Carper (D-DE).

The legislation is endorsed by American Federation of Government Employees, American Society for Public Administration, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, National Federation of Federal Employees, National Treasury Employees Union, National Active And Retired Federal Employee Association, National Weather Service Employees Organization, Patent Office Professional Association, and Senior Executive Association.

Full text of the legislation is available here.