Biden cements civil service protections from Trump firing spree

Source: By Kevin Bogardus, E&E News • Posted: Thursday, April 4, 2024

The safeguard comes as worries grow over a revival of the prior administration’s push to ease firing of federal employees.

Joe Biden delivers remarks.

The Biden administration announced Thursday its rule to strengthen civil service protections. Andrew Harnik/AP

President Joe Biden has bolstered defenses for the federal workforce to ward off mass firing by a potential second Trump administration.

The Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday its rule to strengthen civil service protections. The long-anticipated safeguard aims to prevent former President Donald Trump creating a new category of career employees that would be much easier to fire.

“This final rule honors our 2.2 million career civil servants, helping ensure that people are hired and fired based on merit and that they can carry out their duties based on their expertise and not political loyalty,” OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said in a statement.

In his last months in the White House, Trump signed an executive order to establish Schedule F, a new class of federal employees involved in policymaking, which stripped them of their civil service rights. Few agencies complied with the order, however, and Biden revoked it soon after coming into office.

Still, allies of the Biden administration have grown worried about Schedule F being revived as the 2024 campaign heats up with the former president running again for the White House. Trump has vowed, if returned to office, to rework agencies and reduce staff in his push to take apart the deep state.

OPM’s rule “clarifies and reinforces” civil service protections and merit system principles that ended the patronage system for the federal workforce.

Federal worker unions and public interest groups urged the administration to craft the civil service rule, arguing it was warranted to guard against career staff being replaced by unqualified political aides if Trump is elected again.

Former Trump officials have criticized the rule, saying it will make it more difficult to fire underperforming or misbehaving government employees. A future administration could also overturn the measure with its own rulemaking process.