Administration

Omnibus doesn’t block Trump order allowing burrowing of political appointees

Congress’s final spending package does not include language backed by Democrats to block an executive order from President Trump that lifts protections for civil servants while creating a pathway for his political appointees to remain in government.

The October order creates a new class of federal employment, Schedule F, that would allow agencies to more quickly fire career staff for performance issues. But it would also allow current political appointees to bypass the merit system required for entering the federal service.

Democrats had sought to block agencies from implementing the executive order before the Jan. 19 deadline — the day before President-elect Joe Biden assumes office.

“I’m extremely disappointed that Republicans blocked the inclusion of language to reverse President Trump’s cynical Schedule F Executive Order in the latest government funding legislation. The Trump Administration’s decision to reclassify thousands of civil servants in order to make it easier to fire and replace them with partisan individuals ought to alarm all Americans,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement. “Reports that agencies are moving forward with this order in the waning weeks of the Trump Administration are deeply alarming, and would seriously harm the ability of our government to serve its citizens.”

Biden would be able to reverse the order, but it’s clear many agencies are already pushing ahead with slotting political appointees into the new category.

The Office of Management and Budget has already requested to transfer 88 percent of its workforce, 425 people, into the new category, according to a Nov. 21 report from Real Clear Politics

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.” It does, however, bar the dismissal of employees for their political beliefs.

Critics fear the Trump administration could use the order to more easily fire career staff, while the incoming Biden administration would still have to build a case to dismiss crossover political appointees for performance issues even with the diminished workplace protections.

“It is appalling that Republicans backed up Donald Trump’s executive order to make the federal workforce subject to political purges,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who represents the largest number of federal employees of a member of Congress, told The Hill in a statement. “I hope and anticipate that President-elect Biden will rapidly end this order, but Republicans’ cowardly refusal to stand up to Trump has created a window of time in which he could do significant damage to the workforces of government agencies.” 

The omnibus does include other measures aimed at helping federal employees, including giving them extra time to repay their payroll taxes after Trump forced the federal workforce and military to take a payroll tax deferral in September. Those workers will now have until the end of 2021 to pay back Social Security taxes that otherwise would have been withheld.

Federal employees will also get a 1 percent across the board raise in 2021. 

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden Steny Hoyer

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