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Kaine Welcomes Biden Administration Step to Protect Merit-Based Federal Workforce System

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement welcoming a new rule issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to protect career civil servants from being reclassified outside of merit system principles, in keeping with congressional intent over many decades:

“Virginia is home to nearly 150,000 dedicated civil servants, who provide all kinds of essential services to Americans across the country—from keeping our National Parks open and protecting our national security to administering Social Security and Veterans benefits, and more. It’s in every American’s best interest that civil servants are hired through a merit-based system, and I welcome the Biden Administration’s step today to affirm that principle and protect these workers from politically-motivated firings. I will continue to push for my Saving the Civil Service Act so we can etch this progress into federal statute.”

Kaine has long led efforts in Congress to protect the merit-based federal hiring system, including by championing the Saving the Civil Service Act in the Senate. That legislation would prevent any position in the federal civil service from being reclassified outside of merit system principles without the express consent of Congress and protect tens of thousands of federal employees from losing job protections and due process rights.

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 This executive order, had it not been repealed by President Biden in January 2021, would have required agency heads to reclassify “policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating” positions to a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.