House Passes Bill That Would Thwart Trump Plot to Purge Federal Workers

“The former president’s attempt to remove qualified experts and replace them with political loyalists threatened our national security and our government’s ability to function the way the American people expect it to,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, the bill’s sponsor.

By Jessica Corbett  Published 9-15-2022 by Common Dreams

Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/CC

U.S. House Democrats and a handful of Republicans on Thursday rejected former President Donald Trump’s plot to oust civil servants by passing the Preventing a Patronage System Act.

“The civil servants who make up our federal workforce are the engine that keeps our federal government running,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), the bill’s sponsor. “We rely on their experience and expertise to provide every basic government service—from delivering the mail to helping families in the wake of natural disasters.”

“The former president’s attempt to remove qualified experts and replace them with political loyalists threatened our national security and our government’s ability to function the way the American people expect it to. Expertise, not fealty, must define our civil service,” he added.

Connolly, who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s government operations panel, and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) introduced H.R. 302 in response to Trump’s executive order to establish a new Schedule F category of federal employees who are easier to fire.

Although President Joe Biden rescinded the order, Trump is widely expected to seek office again in 2024, and even if he isn’t the next Republican presidential nominee, as Common Dreams has reported, other potential candidates have signaled support for the scheme.

In July, U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) introduced the Public Service Reform Act, which one policy expert said makes clear that “efforts to try to change the civil service aren’t just Trump necessarily, and if Republicans take control of Congress following the midterms, this may very well go from idea to specific action.”

As Connolly’s office previously outlined:

The Preventing a Patronage System Act would secure the civil service and protect federal employees from losing statutory job protections and due process rights. Specifically, the bill would prevent any position in the competitive service from being reclassified to an excepted service schedule created after September 30, 2020. The bill would also limit federal employee reclassifications to the five excepted service schedules in use prior to fiscal year 2021 and would block any reclassifications of federal employees to Schedule F pursuant to the E.O. signed on October 21, 2020.

Government Executive noted Thursday that the 225-204 vote—with three members not voting—came after the bill “passed out of the House as part of the chamber’s version of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act in July, and companion legislation was introduced in the Senate last month.”

“The renewed focus on the issue by congressional Democrats comes after reports that conservative activists and ex-Trump administration staffers have plans to immediately revive Schedule F under the next Republican president and have already identified 50,000 employees to threaten with termination,” the outlet added. “Trump, who is mulling another run at the White House, also explicitly endorsed the idea during a political rally last month.”

Critics have condemned the GOP effort as “authoritarianism 101” and “a fascist takeover of our government.” One public policy expert warned this year that “it would be a government of the lawless leading the incompetent.”

House Democrats shared similar statements leading up to the vote Thursday.

In a tweet affirming his support for the bill, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) told Americans that “you deserve a government made up of public servants, not political hacks.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
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