Since many Republican candidates, especially frontrunner Donald Trump, have made cutting and reshaping the federal workforce a central plank of their campaigns, the Biden administration is attempting to improve protections for federal workers.
The government is proposing a new rule to make it more difficult to reclassify federal employees into a category where they could be deprived of some safeguards and to clarify civil service protections for federal employees.
This action is a direct response to President Trump’s efforts in his final days in office to reduce the size of the federal civil service in preparation for a future Republican administration.
According to Kiran Ahuja, director of the Office of Personnel Management, “the proposed rule honours our 2.2 million career civil servants, helping to ensure they can carry out their duties without fear of political reprisal.” Government personnel who stay in their jobs for the long haul provide essential services to people across the country. The American people could have been harmed by previous attempts to politicise their work.
Critics warned this action politicised civil service and may lead to career officials being pushed out for political reasons, but Trump signed an executive order at the end of his term that gave him and his agency appointees more latitude in the hiring and dismissal of government employees deemed disloyal.
While in office, Trump made it a habit of calling certain career government employees members of the “deep state” and worked to purge the federal government of those he saw as enemies. Some have voiced concern that Trump could use the directive to stack the federal government with supporters.
Employees in “confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions” that normally do not change during a presidential transition were placed under a new categorization called “Schedule F” by Trump’s executive order.
Upon taking office, Biden switched the order, but many Democrats have been advocating for increased protections for federal employees in case Trump or another Republican is elected.
The proposed regulation on Friday would make it explicit that civil service protections cannot be removed from workers unless they willingly waive them. It would also make it more difficult to reclassify jobs as “exempt,” which would result in the loss of legal safeguards.
A number of Trump’s Republican primary rivals have pledged to shrink the size of the federal government’s workforce. This week, Vivek Ramaswamy threatened to terminate one million people from the federal government. Florida Governor-elect Ron DeSantis has promised to dismantle a number of government departments.
Plans to fire government employees have been devised by conservative organisations, many of which are led by former Trump administration officials.