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Biden moves to protect civil service as Trump plans to install loyalists

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration on Thursday issued final rules meant to protect the jobs of the government’s 2.2 million civil servants, as Republican challenger Donald Trump plans to replace thousands with hardline loyalists if he returns to the White House.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management said the rule is meant to clarify longstanding protections for career civil service employees, after former President Trump in his final months in office sought to impose rule changes that would have made it easier for him to fire them.

Democratic President Joe Biden revoked that executive order, known as Schedule F, shortly after he took office in January 2021. Trump has pledged to reintroduce the rule if elected, and Thursday’s action would likely only slow, not stop, him from doing so.

That would give him the power to potentially fire tens of thousands of career, nonpolitical workers and bring in loyalists willing to implement far-right policies and his self-described “retribution” agenda against those he feels have wronged him.

Unions representing government workers have vowed to sue to block attempts by Trump to strip workers of employment protections.

“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,” said Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja, in a statement.

James Sherk, a senior domestic policy adviser to Trump during the Republican former president’s term and one of the architects of Schedule F, said in comments filed with OPM that the federal bureaucracy often stymied Trump’s policy proposals during his presidency.

Last year, two judges on the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that a president should have broad powers to fire government workers.

OPM noted that Congress in 1883 passed a law adopting civil service protections and merit system principles and that federal employees who refuse to implement lawful direction from leadership can already be disciplined or fired.

“This regulation will work to protect a civil service that implements the laws of the people and protects the rights and benefits of the people against partisan manipulation,” said Democratic U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone and Matthew Lewis)

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