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Connolly, Fitzpatrick Introduce Bipartisan Saving the Civil Service Act to Protect Federal Workforce from Politicization

Today, Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the Saving the Civil Service Act to protect the federal workforce from politicization and political manipulation. The bipartisan legislation includes and builds on Connolly and Fitzpatrick’s Preventing a Patronage System Act, which passed the House in September 2022. The legislation is cosponsored by Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D-VA).

“The civil servants who make up our federal workforce are the engine that keeps our federal government running,” said Congressman Connolly.  “They are our country’s greatest asset. 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 was a direct threat to our national security and our government’s ability to function the way the American people expect it to.  Expertise, not political fealty, must define our civil service.”

“Civil service employment should always be based upon merit and expertise, not political connections,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “The security of our nation depends upon an efficient and competent federal workforce. This legislation would ensure that political loyalties play no significant role in hiring federal employees, and I’m proud to co-lead this effort to further ensure that our workforce consists of the best and brightest individuals.”

On October 21, 2020, President Trump signed Executive Order 13957 creating Schedule F in the excepted service. This executive order would undermine the merit system principles of our federal workforce by requiring agency heads to reclassify “policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating” positions to a newly created Schedule F category of federal employees that removes their due process rights and civil service protections. 

The Saving the Civil Service Act would ensure the civil service system cannot be politically manipulated by:

  • Preventing any position in the federal competitive service, created after September 30, 2020, from being reclassified outside of merit system principles without the express consent of Congress.
  • Installing a cap on the number of conversions to the frozen excepted service schedule (Schedule C). Furthermore, that cap cannot exceed more than one percent of the total number of employees at such agency as of the first day of such term, or five employees, whichever is greater.
  • Requiring that anyone who is converted provide consent for that conversion, and a report to Congress on any conversions.

The Saving the Civil Service Act is endorsed by the following organizations: The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), Professional Managers Association, American Society for Public Administration (ASPA), National Active and Retired Federal Employees Union (NARFE), Senior Executives Association, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), National Association of Assistant US Attorneys, National Weather Service Employees Organization, Patent Office Professional Association.

“We commend Representative Connolly and Senator Kaine – two true friends of federal workers – for introducing the ‘Saving the Civil Service Act’ to prevent a return to 19th century patronage hiring. This legislation would finally slam the door shut on one the last administration’s worst ideas, which was to unilaterally declare untold thousands of existing career civil servants to be at-will political appointees.  The bill would wisely make it illegal for any president to try that in the future and deserves swift passage. We hope both parties see the value of a highly skilled, apolitical civil service hired for what they know and not who they know,” said Everett Kelley, National President, American Federation of Government Employees.

“The Saving the Civil Service Act provides a bipartisan, congressional check on misuse of executive powers by limiting the ability of any president to bypass the merit-based civil service framework through broad new exceptions to longstanding rules. The merit-based civil service system provides continuity through changing administrations, preserves institutional knowledge and expertise within the federal government, and protects the rule of law. It ensures federal employees are hired and fired based on their ability to perform the job – or not – and not based on political connections. NARFE is grateful that Congressman Connolly and Senator Kaine are leading the way on this effort to preserve a critical institutional safeguard for democracy.” said William Shackelford, National President, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Union. 

"The federal civil service is the backbone of our government - a system designed to ensure that employees are selected for their jobs based on merit rather than political patronage. However, at the end of his term in office Donald Trump tried to dismantle this system and replace it with one based on patronage and partisanship" said Debra Perlin, Policy Director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). "Rep. Connolly and Rep. Fitzpatrick's Saving the Civil Service Act is a necessary step to uphold protections for federal workers and reduce the possibility for patronage-based hiring in the future. For the sake of our democracy we urge Congress to pass this legislation as soon as possible and send it to President Biden for his signature."

“NTEU strongly supports the Saving the Civil Service Act introduced by Sen. Kaine, Rep. Connolly and Rep. Fitzpatrick. It is essential that Congress proactively block any future attempt to turn the professional federal workforce into one of political patronage. When it comes to staffing federal agencies and delivering government services to all Americans, we cannot put partisan loyalty over the skills and qualifications of those who have dedicated their careers to service. NTEU is proud to endorse this bipartisan legislation because it protects the civil service as well as the public’s faith in it,” said Tony Reardon, National President of the National Treasury Employees Union.

“NFFE strongly supports the Saving the Civil Service Act,” said Randy Erwin, National President, National Federation of Federal Employees. “This bipartisan legislation will protect the merit system principles of the federal workforce by preventing a U.S. president from requiring political loyalty from the apolitical career ranks of federal civil service. Federal labor, executives, and professional associations all agree with political appointees from former Democratic and Republican administrations that this bill is critical to ensuring the government remains in the hands of the American people and not some political despot, even if that despot is a president.  Every member of Congress must choose: You either support transparency and accountability through this bill or you support rogue political operatives who covertly run private agendas while on the Taxpayer’s dime.  You cannot have it both ways.”

“The Saving the Civil Service Act is vital to protecting government employees who serve the American public fairly, with integrity, and are beholden only to upholding and defending the Constitution.  Without this legislation, political partisans will use Schedule F to drive government service by fear and the use of politically motivated retribution to serve partisan interests,” said Mitch MacDonald, President of the NOAA Attorneys Guild.

“The Saving the Civil Service Act will help prevent partisan politics from bleeding into government service by thwarting any President from instilling a cadre of loyalists in the federal workforce. In doing so, it ensures the workforce remains loyal to only the Constitution and the law. This bill also promotes both efficiency and reliability. At the Internal Revenue Service, career leaders have significant knowledge about complex tax laws and vast congressional mandates. Their knowledge expedites the onboarding process for political appointees, provides expert insight for other employees, and ensures timely, accurate information is relayed to stakeholders. We applaud Senator Kaine, Representative Connolly, and Representative Fitzpatrick for leading this effort on behalf of the American people who rely on the equal and efficient delivery of government services,” said Chad Hooper, Executive Director, Professional Managers Association.

“The dedicated professionals protected under the Saving the Civil Service Act are subject matter experts with a long history of serving our nation. They are the linchpin to making our government and public programs operate effectively, efficiently and equitably. And, they are the institutional backbone to maintaining consistency in administering these programs across administrations, amidst changing cultural trends, and so often in the face of partisanship and unnecessary attack. The American Society for Public Administration wholeheartedly supports their work; this legislation helps prevents their loyal service from being distorted for partisan goals,” said William Shields, Jr., Executive Director and CEO, American Society for Public Administration.

“Under current law, any president can seize control over the non-partisan career workforce, and through this control, manipulate the equal and apolitical delivery of government services to promote their own ends. Any president could revert thousands of federal positions back to the spoils the American people rejected over 130 years ago. We applaud Representative Connolly and Representative Fitzpatrick for introducing this bill to protect the American people from this politicization and defend the apolitical government workforce,” said Marcus Hill, Board Chair, Senior Executives Association.

“We applaud Congressman Gerry Connolly and Senator Tim Kaine for sponsoring the Saving Our Civil Service Act to prevent any presidential administration from politicizing competitive civil service positions, undermining the professionalism of our federal government, circumventing merit principles and due process, and jeopardizing the continuity of government across changing administrations,” said Matthew Biggs, President of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE). “The Saving Our Civil Service Act is sensible legislation that would protect a core institution in our federal government so that it continues to serve the best interests of the American public and not personal and political allegiance. Federal employees working in the nonpartisan competitive civil service play critical roles in national defense, economic security, scientific progress, public safety, and providing essential services that Americans count on.”

Connolly outlined the importance of an independent, apolitical civil service in an OpEd for the Washington Post

Full text of the Saving the Civil Service Act is available here

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