White House aides push back on idea of splitting up relief package
House Democrats seek list of Trump appointees "burrowing in" to Biden administration
House Democrats are asking the Trump administration to turn over a list of employees who will be slotted into a new category of federal employment that critics fear will be used to retain Trump political appointees.
The request, made to 61 government agencies, comes as agencies have begun implementing an October executive order from President Trump that creates a new employment category, Schedule F, for policy-focused positions within the federal government.
"We are seeking a full accounting of political appointees who have already been hired into career positions or are being considered for such conversion," lawmakers wrote in the letter and signed by each House committee chair.
Trump's order was widely opposed by unions because it strips many of the employment protections afforded to civil servants.
But it's also created a fear among critics that it could be used to allow appointees to "burrow in" to career positions.
The order also allows the Trump administration to place political appointees into career positions, bypassing the merit-based system typically required in the hiring process. And while it allows employees to be fired for performance reasons with little recourse, it bars dismissing employees "on the basis of the employee's partisan affiliation."
"Protecting the nonpartisan expertise of the career civil service is essential to the safety and security of the American people. The merit system principles of the federal workforce put in place guardrails to ensure that competitive service requirements are not bypassed to inappropriately place political appointees in permanent career service positions," lawmakers wrote in the letter.
Early signs show the Trump administration may seek to place a significant number of its employees into the new Schedule F category.
A memo obtained by Real Clear Politics found the Office of Management and Budget planned to place 88 percent of its employees, 425 people, into this category.
In the order, Trump wrote that "agencies need the flexibility to expeditiously remove poorly performing employees from these positions without facing extensive delays or litigation."
But even with the lifted restrictions on firing people, the incoming Biden administration would still need to make a case that the political holdovers exhibit poor performance - something that could take time as managers seek to build their case.
"Biden coming in would have to build a record showing this isn't a partisan action," said Andrew Rosenberg, with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group that opposed the order, previously told The Hill.
Trump's order gives agencies 90 days to determine which policy-related positions should attain the new status, a deadline that will end just as President-elect Joe Biden takes office.