The Biden administration is seeking to strengthen protections for federal workers as a host of Republican candidates, including front-runner Donald Trump, make reducing and changing the federal workforce a key plank of their campaigns.
In a proposed new rule, the administration seeks to clarify civil service protections for federal workers and make it harder for them to be reclassified into a category where they might be deprived of certain protections.
The move amounts to an attempt to prevent a Republican president from gutting the federal civil service, a move President Trump had begun attempting during his final days in office.
“The proposed rule honors our 2.2 million career civil servants, helping to ensure that they can perform their duties without fear of political reprisal,” said Kiran Ahuja, director of the Office of Personnel Management. “Career federal employees provide essential services to Americans in every community. Previous attempts to unnecessarily politicize their work risked harm to the American people. »
At the end of his term, Trump signed an executive order that gave him and his agency’s appointees more latitude in hiring and firing federal employees deemed disloyal, a move that critics say , politicizes the civil service and could lead to the exclusion of career civil servants. Political reasons.
Trump had regularly vilified some career officials as the “deep state” and sought to rid the federal government of people he viewed as anti-Trump. Critics have warned that the order would allow Trump to fill federal staff with his loyalists.
Trump’s executive order created a new federal employee classification called “Schedule F” for employees in “confidential, determining, decision-making, or policy-promoting positions” that generally do not change during a presidential transition.
Biden rescinded the order as soon as he took office, but many Democrats have pushed to strengthen protections for federal workers to prepare for the possibility that Trump or another Republican is elected.
The rule proposed Friday would make clear that civil service protections cannot be taken away from employees unless they voluntarily give them up. And it would make it harder to move jobs to a status where protections could be removed.
In the Republican presidential primary, a number of candidates followed Trump’s lead in promising to cut the federal workforce. Vivek Ramaswamy announced this week that he would lay off 1 million federal workers. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has listed several agencies he would eliminate if elected.
Conservative organizations, many led by former Trump administration officials, have also drawn up plans to lay off federal employees if a Republican returns to the White House.