Legislation would block Trump executive order to change civil service classifications

On Oct. 27, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) introduced the Saving the Civil Service Act (H.R. 8687) to block President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13957.

The executive order, issued on Oct. 21, aims to give agency heads greater flexibility in the appointment of staff members who serve in policy-related positions and make it easier for agency management to remove poor-performing employees.

“The executive order would erode due process protections for civil service employees,” Connolly, along with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a letter that was signed by other members of the Democratic caucus. “It would expedite the hiring of Trump loyalists and place them in roles best served by career civil servants.”

The text of the executive order Trump signed reads: “Separating employees who cannot or will not meet required performance standards is important, and it is particularly important with regard to employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions. High performance by such employees can meaningfully enhance agency operations, while poor performance can significantly hinder them.”

The debate over the executive order to change civil service classifications is part of a larger debate over executive control of agencies. Executive control of agencies is one of five pillars key to understanding the main areas of debate about the nature and scope of the administrative state. 

Executive control is primarily exercised through appointment and removal power — the authority of an executive to appoint and remove officials in the various branches of government.

A scholarly debate in this area concerns the president’s removal power: The president has the authority to remove his appointees from office, for example, but he can only fire the heads of independent federal agencies with a cause.

U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) co-sponsored the Saving the Civil Service Act and the bill was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

To learn more about executive control of agencies, see here.

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