Groups support regulations proposed by the Office of Personnel Management to protect career federal employees from far-right attacks on the so-called “Deep State”
On November 17, 2023, Democracy Forward, along with 26 other groups, voiced support for regulations announced by the Biden administration to help protect the quality and independence of the United States’ civil service from partisan attacks. Democracy Forward supported these efforts, which are essential to the protection and advancement of American democracy.
Democracy Forward worked with Jim Eisenmann, former Executive Director and General Counsel of the Merit Systems Protection Board, Adjunct Professor at the American University School of Public Affairs, and Partner at Alden Law Group, PLLC, on a comment to the Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) outlining how Congress has, for 150 years, repeatedly directed that the civil service be professionalized and insulated from partisan politics. Eisenmann also outlines how a wealth of research has repeatedly shown the benefits of civil service protections. Those benefits include: higher quality federal employees and decreased turnover; a reduced risk of corruption; and increased public trust in the government.
Democracy Forward also submitted a comment to OPM that rebuts bad faith arguments made by far-right organizations that seek to impugn the reputation of the civil service. The comment details numerous examples from the Trump administration that show how the Biden administration’s proposals would reinforce the proper functioning of the civil service and protect against future attempts to politicize it in ways that run contrary to Congressional intent and the public interest. The comment argues that the extreme breadth and seriousness of the Trump administration’s legal and ethical lapses should make our country wary of giving Presidential appointees even more unchecked power.
In addition, Democracy Forward led a coalition of 27 organizations that believe in the importance of civil service protections in a sign-on comment in support of the proposed rule. The letter describes how a professional civil service provides valuable regulatory certainty and ensures that the federal government has the experience and expertise necessary to manage complex federal programs.
The groups that joined Democracy Forward in submitting the sign-on letter include: 350.org, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), Brennan Center for Justice, Center for Progressive Reform, Disability Policy Consortium, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Earthjustice, Environmental Protection Network, Equal Rights Advocates, Government Accountability Project, Japanese American Citizens League, JustLeadershipUSA, League of Conservation Voters, MomsRising, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, National Community Action Partnership, National Employment Law Project, National Women’s Law Center, Project On Government Oversight, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Public Rights Project, Revolving Door Project, Rise Economy (formerly California Reinvestment Coalition), and South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center.
In his final months in office, President Trump issued Executive Order 13957, titled “Creating Schedule F in the Excepted Service.” The goal was to make it easier for President Trump to fire federal civil servants and replace them with his own political appointees—these political appointees would be loyal to him, not the American people or the mission of the federal agency that employs them. The connection between what the Trump administration did and current planning by anti-democratic organizations is clear—Paul Dans (the Trump administration official who led the Schedule F effort in 2020) is spearheading transition planning for a Heritage Foundation-led coalition of over 70 anti-democratic organizations. This coalition has launched an unprecedented $22 million campaign that, as has been reported in numerous outlets, seeks to purge the civil service of workers far-right groups see as insufficiently loyal to their cause.
The proposed federal regulations provide safeguards to help ensure that the American people and government leaders can count on the services of an experienced, professional, and mission-oriented civil service that puts the public interest first. Without these protections, irreplaceable federal employees with decades of experience and expertise, who run programs that benefit communities across the country, could be the target of a future administration seeking to purge the government of the far-right’s perceived enemies.
Statement from Skye Perryman, President and CEO of Democracy Forward, on the comments and letter submitted by Democracy Forward today:
“This should go without saying: purging the professional civil service in favor of political loyalists would be bad for the American people and democracy. But it is no secret that the far right wants to turn back the clock 150 years, to a time when federal employees were given jobs as a reward for their party winning elections, rather than because of their ability to serve the public.
The 2.2 million career civil servants who are the backbone of the federal workforce do important work every day to benefit the American people with professionalism and expertise. We applaud the Biden administration for working to protect their ability to continue their important work.”
Statement from Jim Eisenmann, former Executive Director and General Counsel of the Merit Systems Protection Board, on the comment he submitted today:
“Ever since Congress passed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883, our nation’s leaders have recognized that the American people depend upon a strong, independent, and highly capable civil service to provide fair, legitimate, and high-quality government services. Just as Congress has repeatedly affirmed its support of an independent civil service, so too has research repeatedly shown the value of civil service protections. I applaud the Office of Personnel Management for proposing this rule to make sure that our civil service can continue to fulfill the mission Congress gave it: to serve and protect the public interest.”