Updated Apr 4, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden admin moves to shield federal workers from potential Trump purge

Joe Biden speaks in the Indian Treaty Room of the White House

President Biden speaks at the White House on April 3. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration issued a new rule Thursday to protect federal workers from being fired at whim.

Why it matters: The new rule would make it harder for Former President Trump — or any other president — to reshape the federal workforce via mass firings, as the likely GOP presidential nominee has promised to do if he is elected to another term in the White House.

  • "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," Kiran Ahuja, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, said in a press release.

The big picture: The new rule is widely perceived as a response to Trump's attempt to reshape the federal workforce at the end of his term.

  • Weeks ahead of the 2020 election, Trump issued an executive order known as "Schedule F" that would have reclassified tens of thousands of federal workers into a new Schedule F employment category.
  • The move would have allowed Trump to replace scores of civil servant positions and career posts with hand-picked loyalists.
  • Biden rescinded the executive order after he took office.

Reality check: If Trump returns to the White House and wants to reverse the new rule, he would need to direct the Office of Personnel Management to draft new rules, which would include seeking public comment on any proposed changes.

  • This process could take months and open it up to legal challenges.

Flashback: Even before Trump officially announced his 2024 bid, he was floating the idea of resurrecting Schedule F.

  • "We will pass critical reforms making every executive branch employee fireable by the president of the United States," he said at a March 2022 rally in South Carolina. "The deep state must and will be brought to heel."

The fine print: The new rule ensures that civil service job protections can't be taken away if a worker is involuntarily reclassified into a less protected job category.

  • It also establishes requirements for moving between job categories and an "appeals process" for federal workers for whom an involuntary category switch would strip them of their job protections, per the press release.
  • Employees can choose to waive the protections if they wish.
  • The new rule, which was issued for public review Thursday, will be published in the Federal Register next week. It's expected to take effect in May.

The bottom line: "This rule is a step toward combatting corruption and partisan interference to ensure civil servants are able to focus on the most important task at hand: delivering for the American people," President Biden said in a statement Thursday.

Go deeper: How Trump could reimpose "Schedule F" in 2025

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