The Trump order might spark mass layoffs of civil servants, lawmakers warn

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© Reuters. US President Trump speaks to reporters about stock market gains at the White House in Washington

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By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. government officials could face mass layoffs under an October ordinance before President Donald Trump leaves office and mobilize Democratic lawmakers, surveillance groups and unions to block the move.

The heads of 23 House committees and subcommittees asked the heads of 61 federal departments and agencies to provide a “complete record” of all federal worker reclassification plans under the Oct. 21 ordinance making them vulnerable to layoffs.

They also asked for details on Trump political representatives who have already been hired or are being considered for careers. Initial replies are due December 9, followed by bi-weekly updates, according to the letter led by Carolyn Maloney, Chair of the Supervisory and Reform Committee.

Wednesday’s letter came after 13 House Democrats, including Gerry Connolly, chairman of the subcommittee on government operations and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, on Tuesday urged the appropriators to reverse the order in their next spending bill.

Trump’s order allows agencies to reclassify workers involved in policy making to a new Schedule F category without the health and safety they now have. Agencies must complete their reviews by January 19, the day before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.

The White House order says Trump is pushing to streamline federal bureaucracy, increase accountability and make it easier to clean up “bad performers”. The federal government employs a total of around 2 million people.

Critics have cited the move as part of an ongoing attack on the government bureaucracy that has lost expertise and skills during the Trump administration.

The creation of a new category of federal workers would expose the civil service to “undue political influence and intimidation,” the committee chairs warned in their letter.

In Tuesday’s letter, Democrats said the order would “expedite the recruitment of political officials into jobs regardless of merit and put them into roles best served by civil servants – including economists, scientists and data analysts.”

House and Senate Democrats separately asked the impartial Government Accountability Office of Congress this week to oversee implementation of the ordinance, warning that this could lead to a “mass exodus” of federal employees in the coming weeks.

The White House Bureau of Administration and Housekeeping has requested that 88% of its 425 employees be reclassified to the new category, Real Clear Politics reported this week.

OMB did not respond to repeated requests for information.

The order was fired by the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 700,000 federal and Washington DC government employees, and the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 federal employees.

A spokeswoman for the human resource management office, who has to sign the reclassifications, said the review period was still open.

Biden has already promised to repeal other executive ordinances against federal employees after taking office.

But any move to eradicate Trump loyalists could violate a ban on firing people for partisan affiliation – the only civil service protection the order left intact for Schedule F workers.

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