A bipartisan bill introduced in the House by Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., on Jan. 13 aims to invalidate a controversial executive order issued by the Trump administration in October 2020 that created a new “Schedule F” classification for Federal employees in policy-making positions and makes it easier to hire and fire them.

Rep. Connolly has argued strenuously since then that the executive order effectively creates a political “patronage” system for Federal jobs at the expense of the government hiring which should be based on qualifications and expertise of candidates.

The congressman, who represents a northern Virginia district that is home to many Federal employees, offered legislation last October to block implementation of the White House order.  That bill – the Saving the Civil Service Act – never made it out of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

The new bill filed by Reps. Connolly and Fitzpatrick – the Preventing a Patronage System Act – would take a slightly different tack but aim at the same result. The bill would prevent “any position in the competitive service from being reclassified to an excepted service schedule created after September 30, 2020,” and would also “limit federal employee reclassifications to the five excepted service schedules in use prior to fiscal year 2021,” the members of Congress said. The White House issued its executive order on Oct. 21 of last year.

The effect of the bill, the sponsors said, “would secure the civil service and protect Federal employees from losing statutory job protections and due process rights.”

“Congress has a responsibility to protect our civil service from returning to a failed patronage system,” said Rep. Connolly, who chairs the House Government Operations Subcommittee. “Our legislation will ensure no administration pursues a path that would allow the hiring of political cronies and allies at the expense of expertise and maintains protections for civil servants so they cannot be fired for standing up to political pressure.”

“Employment in the federal workforce should 100% be based on merit, skill, and experience, not on political connections,” commented Rep. Fitzpatrick, adding that the White House order “undermines the hard work and dedication of so many career federal workers, who are dedicated to sound, evidence-based policymaking.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.