A group of conservative Republicans have introduced legislation to make the federal government an at-will employer, uprooting civil service protections, silencing whistleblower activity and also removing the Merit Systems Protection Board. This legislation, paired with recent discussion of a renewed effort to implement Schedule F, demonstrates that a “major assault” on the federal civil service is on the horizon.
On Thursday, Reps. Chip Roy, R-Texas, Mary Miller, R-Ill., Troy Nehls, R-Texas, Bob Good, R-Va., and Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. introduced the Public Service Reform Act (H.R. 8550), which would make federal workers at-will employees and subsequently would remove a number of ways that they currently have at their disposal to appeal adverse personnel actions. For example, this bill would abolish the MSPB, moving all complaints of whistleblower retaliation to the Office of Special Counsel (for 14 days), after which all appeals would go directly to federal appellate courts.
“Most career civil servants do their jobs faithfully day in and day out, but there are still too many federal employees actively undermining America through their blatant contempt for our nation, the rule of law, and the American people,” Roy said in a statement. “That is because policies meant to insulate the government from politics have instead created a dense web of red tape that rewards laziness and noncompliance and enables hostile partisans to entrench themselves within federal agencies. Former President Trump is absolutely right about this: there needs to be a reckoning, and bureaucrats actually need to be fireable.”
This is another move demonstrating Republican lawmakers actively trying to implement law that would grant the government an easier avenue to fire bureaucrats.
In fact, this is the third time since 2016, members of the House introduced a bill to make all federal employees “at-will” workers. This translates to agencies having access to able to quickly remove employees for underperforming or behaving in a manner that goes against federal rules.
“My bill would make all federal bureaucrats at-will employees — just like private sector workers — and claw back the inordinate protections some federal employees grossly abuse while helping legitimate whistleblowers and victims of discrimination get the justice they deserve. This would empower federal agencies to swiftly address misconduct and remove underperforming employees, creating a workforce that once again serves the American people,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas).
The bill would abolish the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), a board specifically designed to protect federal workers against partisan political practices by hearing employee appeals.
The legislation would make it more difficult for federal employees to appeal firings on the basis of discrimination or retaliation.
Other iterations of the bill, which were introduced during the Trump administration, had all failed to pass through Congress. While the bills were not able to entirely abolish the MSPB, they still created a limit of what could be appealed to that board.
Under the new proposal, employees would get 14 days notification of their pending termination. An agency official, aside from the one initiating the original termination, would review the proposed firing and then would be able to conduct a hearing. From there, the deciding official would determine if the termination was lawful and needed to proceed. Lastly, the final decision is unable to be appealed except by the president.
Federal employee advocates spoke out against bills like Roy’s in the past. In 2016, the National Federation of Federal Employees issued a statement against making federal workers at-will employees.
“The due process protections federal employees receive were established with the specific purpose of increasing government efficiency and protecting against political patronage systems,” the organization wrote. ” It would allow for federal managers to fire any employee at any time for any reason. Anything from a disagreement over sports allegiances to ideological differences, leaving the terminated employee no option for appeal. Worse yet, managers could fire entire departments only to replace employees with friends and families.”
Due to the fact that Republicans are the minority in both legislative houses, it appears highly unlikely that the bill will pass into law.
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