Biden’s plan aims to protect federal workers from layoffs

The Biden administration has proposed strengthening civil service protections and blocking a Trump-era move to make it easier for mass dismissals of federal employees.

Former President Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates have pledged to make changes to the federal workforce if elected in 2024, touting plans to close some agencies and return employees to offices. Vivek Ramaswamy this week proposed mass layoffs across the government.

The Office of Personnel Management announced a proposed rule Friday that would “strengthen and clarify” civil service protections and merit system principles for career employees. This proposal would reinforce guardrails for those who make up the vast majority of the federal workforce, making it more difficult for them to be classified as at-will political appointees.

“The proposed rule honors our 2.2 million civil servants, helping to ensure they can carry out their duties without fear of political reprisal,” OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said in a statement. “Career federal employees provide important services to Americans in every community. Previous attempts to needlessly politicize their work risked harming the American people.

The proposal states that an employee who has obtained civil service protection cannot lose it unless he voluntarily relinquishes it.

Also under this rule, policymaking positions would not be for career employees but for political appointees, who lack civil service protections, and exceptions to those protections cannot apply to career employees.

In addition, the rule will specify requirements when government positions are transferred from the civil service to political appointments, which are excluded from protections for career employees.

In the final months of his administration, Trump signed an executive order to create a new employee classification, Schedule F, that would strip career employees involved in policy making of civil service protections. Some agencies, including the EPA, have taken little action to comply with the order. However, that agreement did not move much further, and was canceled by President Joe Biden as soon as he took office.

James Shirk, who helped draft the Schedule F order as a White House aide to Trump, told E&E News that the Biden administration “wants to make it more difficult to remove bureaucrats for poor performance or misconduct.”

“They have the ability to do that, but a future administration will have just as much power to lift those restrictions. This rule will only serve to “to temporarily slow down the reinstatement of Schedule F.”

Federal labor unions welcomed the rule proposed by OPM.

“We never want another attempt at Schedule F, but if this rule sets in place some important guardrails to ensure that everything done is in compliance with civil service laws and regulations,” Doreen Greenwald, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a statement. statement.

“Merit-based civil service is an important part of our democracy, and no one should be able to undo that by executive order,” Greenwald added.

NTEU petitioned OPM to propose such a rule, which received the support of the Federal Workers Alliance, a coalition representing federal and postal workers. The union also wrote to Biden about its concerns about the future Schedule F in a letter earlier this year.

Democratic lawmakers have also introduced legislation in the House (H.R. 1002) and Senate (S. 399) to thwart Trump’s return order. Neither bill has yet been passed.

The OPM base is expected to be published in Federal Register on monday. The public will then have 60 days to comment on the proposal.

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