Twenty-four leading House Democrats are requesting 61 agency chiefs report on whether any of President Trump’s political appointees have or will be making their way into career positions in an effort to oversee what they fear could be one way the administration is attempting to politicize the federal government.
“We are seeking a full accounting of political appointees who have already been hired into career positions or are being considered for such conversions,” reads a Nov. 25 letter from the democrats. “The merit system principles of the federal workforce put in place guardrails to ensure that competitive service requirements are not bypassed to inappropriately place political appointees in permanent career service positions.”
The request also addresses an executive order President Trump issued last month which created a new classification—Schedule F—in the government’s excepted service and instructed agency heads to place any “employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions” there. Personnel in the new category would be treated more like political appointees and could be fired at will.
The executive order has been slammed by a federal employee union that is suing the president for exceeding his authority and by Democrats who have proposed legislation that would prevent the order from being implemented. President-elect Joe Biden has also promised to rescind the order on his first day in office. But the courts could favor President Trump, and processes that give agency heads broad authorities may already be underway.
Agencies have until Jan. 19 to determine which employees should be moved into the new category, but as officials from the Office of Personnel Management told members of Congress, they have the option under the order to make those decisions sooner.
The agency heads must submit their determinations to OPM. If they do so early and OPM approves, they can institute changes “the next day,” officials said in a Congressional briefing.
“It is critical that Congress receive timely information about any potential and actual conversions made pursuant to this executive order,” reads the democrats’ letter, which noted that agencies must also submit conversions of political appointees into career civil servants for approval from OPM under a Feb. 2018 memo issued by then-Acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan.
Details the lawmakers are asking for include the names, titles, dates of service, gender and ethnicity of any relevant individuals.
The letter was shared with the ranking members of the relevant committees of jurisdiction and requested an initial response from agency heads by Dec. 9, with additional biweekly responses through Jan. 20, 2021.