Sarbanes Joins Fight Against Trump Administration Assault on Federal Civil Servants

Congressman Co-Sponsors Bill to Immediately Rescind Secret Trump Order That Harms Federal Employees; Calls on OMB and OPM to Halt Implementation of New Administration Rule
October 29, 2020
CONTACT: Natalie Young | |
(202) 225-4016  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) today joined House Democrats in forcefully pushing back against a secret Trump Administration executive order that would make it easier for President Trump to fire career civil servants and replace them with family members, donors and political operatives.

“Once again, President Trump has attempted to undermine the capacity of the federal government by stocking America’s civil service with party loyalists and Trump lackeys,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Working alongside my colleagues, I will continue to fight tirelessly for the hardworking women and men of our federal workforce and act swiftly to stop the Trump Administration’s reckless assault on our nation’s civil servants.”

Congressman Sarbanes co-sponsored the Saving Civil Service Act, a bill that would immediately reverse the Trump Administration’s new executive order and block its attempts to replace federal workers with political appointees.

See here for more information about the bill.

Congressman Sarbanes also joined Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee in calling on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to cease the implementation of the order.

See below for a full copy of the letter.

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October 28, 2020

The Honorable Michael J. Rigas
Acting Deputy Director for Management
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20503

The Honorable Michael J. Rigas
Acting Director
Office of Personnel Management
1900 E Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20405

Dear Mr. Rigas:

            We write with grave concerns about President Trump’s recent executive order creating a Schedule F category for federal employees. The executive order is a harmful attack on the integrity of our government because it will permit the replacement of non-partisan civil servants with partisan Trump loyalists. We request that you immediately cease any activities related to implementation of this executive order.

            President Trump’s executive order undermines the foundations of our civil service – a cadre of non-partisan professionals who serve all Americans, without regard to political party. These civil servants conduct scientific research for a coronavirus vaccine, develop the policies to fight fires that are ravaging Colorado and California and assist families forced from their homes after natural disasters that are caused by climate change.

            The executive order purports to help managers remove poor performing employees, but it incorporates none of the multitude of remedies offered by experts. Instead, it seeks to undo 137 years of merit system hiring. It is a blatant return to patronage politics and a federal workforce based on cronyism and nepotism.

Eroding Expertise in Government

            The executive order would erode the due process of federal employees that protects the professional civil service and make it easier for the Administration to fire qualified individuals who base their professional opinions on evidence, science and analysis. It would also facilitate the expedited hiring of Trump party loyalists and place them in roles best served by career civil servants. This action could multiply the number of political appointees within the federal workforce by thousands — and permit the mass firing of any current federal employee that politically-appointed agency heads determined make “substantive contributions to executive branch policy.”

            The executive order would also precipitate a mass exodus from the federal government at the end of every presidential administration, leaving federal agencies without deep institutional knowledge, expertise, experience and the ability to develop and implement long-term policy strategies. It would be a critical loss for the American people.

Unanimous Opposition from Stakeholders

Unions, trade associations, and good government groups have resoundingly criticized this executive order  Everett Kelley, the President of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 700,000 federal and D.C. government workers, called the executive order “the most profound undermining of the civil service in our lifetimes.” He added: 

Through this order, President Trump has declared war on the professional civil service by giving himself the authority to fill the government with his political cronies who will pledge their unwavering loyalty to him — not to America. By targeting federal workers whose jobs involve government policies, the real-world implications of this order will be disastrous for public health, the environment, the defense of our nation, and virtually every facet of our lives.

            The nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service called the executive order “deeply troubling,” saying it “not only blurs the line between politics and the neutral competency of the career civil service, it obliterates it.” Their statement continues: 

The executive order does not articulate the underlying case for the new Schedule F job classification and provides more questions than answers, including the process for creating the executive order and who is covered by the changes. What is clear is that many federal human resource professionals inside and outside of government were neither consulted nor informed.

            The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 federal employees, urged Americans to “ask themselves why this White House is so determined to override, undermine and get rid of veteran public servants who have dedicated their careers to serving the American people.”

            The Senior Executives Association, a professional organization representing Senior Executive Service members and other career Federal leaders, decried the executive order as an action consistent with “how the party-run governments of authoritarian-led countries are organized and staffed – by political leadership who historically succeed by serving an elite political class, rather than service to all citizens equitably.”

            The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE), an association founded in 1921 to defend and advance America’s civil servants, said the executive order, “demolishes the rule that civil servants are hired and fired based on merit, not political affiliation, a tradition that has served our country well since the late 1800s.”

Trump Administration Legacy of Attacking the Civil Service

            This Administration has a four-year history of attacking the non-partisan federal civil service. Below are just some of these attacks: 

  • Four Presidential Budget Requests have sought to gut due process procedures for disciplining and firing employees;
  • In May 2018, President Trump issued three executive orders targeting the federal collective bargaining process, including one that sought to remove federal employees’ due process rights;
  • Since June 2018, the Administration has repeatedly attempted to abolish the Office of Personnel Management and place control of merit-system principles within the highly politicized Executive Office of the President;
  • President Trump’s pick to lead the Federal Labor Relations Board has repeatedly undermined decades of precedent and eroded collective bargaining rights and due process for federal employees; and
  • Consistently attempting to politicize the civil service with multiple Hatch Act violations, encouraging political speech and silencing scientists.

            We demand an immediate stay on activities to implement this executive order. It is a direct attack on the crown jewel of this nation’s government – our civil servants. These are the individuals in every community who have continued to serve throughout this pandemic.  We cannot allow this corrupt president to undermine more than a century of merit.

            The Committee on Oversight and Reform is the principal oversight committee of the House of Representatives and has broad authority to investigate “any matter” at “any time” under House Rule X.  If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact Committee staff at (202) 225-5051.