Trump wants to fire thousands of government employees. Liberals are preparing to fight back if he wins

(Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press)

Trump wants to fire thousands of government employees. Liberals are preparing to fight back if he wins


February 17, 2024

Former President Trump plans to radically overhaul the federal government when he returns to the White House, promising to deport millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally, abolish government agencies and lay off tens of thousands of workers, replacing them with loyalists.

Liberal organizations in Washington support President Biden


quietly trying to put up roadblocks just in case

Trump wins


A collection of activists, lawyers and legal experts are promoting new federal rules to limit presidential power as they urge Biden’s White House to do more to protect his performance and limit Trump in a potential second term. All of that is happening with far less fanfare than Trump supporters’ plans to create a government-in-waiting through an initiative known as Project 2025.

The Office of Personnel Management, the federal government’s main human resources agency, has proposed a rule against reclassifying tens of thousands of workers that would make it easier to fire them. According to spokesperson Viet Tran, the agency will finalize the rule in April. That means a future administration would likely have to spend months or even years dealing with it if they wanted to try.

Those who support the effort are open about its limits.

My impression is that the Biden administration is taking this potential threat very seriously and is trying to do things now,” said Michael Linden, former executive deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget under Biden. But he added: “No one should do that. we should not be under the illusion that this president can do anything in advance to prevent the next president from doing things that are very damaging and potentially catastrophic.

There is no silver bullet, Linden said.

The White House is reluctant to talk about a second Trump term before Election Day because that would imply it has plans in place if Biden loses.

Trump “is already telegraphing plays straight out of the authoritarian playbook, emptying the civil service of people he deems disloyal and plotting revenge on his political enemies,” said Kevin Munoz, a spokesman for Biden’s campaign. “There is one way to stop Trump’s dangerous and un-American plans: re-electing President Biden.

Still, Norm Eisen, President Obama’s chief ethics adviser, wants Biden to issue executive orders that could limit the use of the military at home. Trump has talked about sending troops to the southern border or to Democratic-run cities facing rising crime rates.

I understand the potential reluctance to flag any risk here as a political issue, and that’s not an illegal consideration, says Eisen, a senior fellow in governance studies at the left-leaning Brookings Institution. But there are opposing considerations given the threat we face.

Included in both Trump’s plans and Democrats’ efforts to stop him is the decision on how many government employees can be ousted by a new administration, which may be replaced by Trump loyalists.

Trump, at the end of his term, attempted to reclassify thousands of the more than two million federal workers, stripping them of job protections and placing them at his discretion under a new classification known as Schedule F. About 4,000 federal workers are now considered political appointees. which usually change with each administration. Creating Schedule F could have increased that more than tenfold.

Biden has rescinded that order, but Trump says he will revive it if he wins. And far-right conservatives preparing thick policy books are devising a strategy to lay off employees to make more room for Trump appointees.

A spokesperson for Trump’s campaign did not respond to a message seeking comment, and the right-wing Heritage Foundation, which runs Project 2025, declined to answer written questions. But Heritage President Kevin Roberts told the New York Times Magazine that he wants to see “destruction” in the government.

People want to lose their jobs. Hopefully their lives can flourish despite that, Roberts said. Buildings will be closed. Hopefully they can be reused for private industry.

The Office of Personnel Management proposed the rule in September to make it more difficult to reclassify employees and let anyone moved to a potential Schedule F retain protections against dismissal.

It is endorsed by 27 interest groups whose policy interests are not always aligned.

I think you’ve seen federal agencies, and the president himself, talk about the importance of a functioning government, the importance of a democracy and the importance of a government that works for all the people, said Skye Perryman, president of the advocacy group Democracy Forward. , which has been a leading proponent of the proposed rule.

James Sherk, a former Trump administration official who now works at the America First Policy Institute, another group strategizing for a second Trump term, opposed the rule in a letter to the Office of Personnel Management. Sherk argued that protecting employees from dismissal allows the typically very liberal career workforce to thwart conservative policies.

The federal workforce is ideologically polarized, and these regulations would hinder the ability of presidents whose views differ from bureaucracies to implement their agendas, Sherk wrote.

Many liberals are also calling for a separate Office of Personnel Management rule that could delay future executive branch orders to relocate government agencies. That followed the Trump administration’s decisions to move agencies within the Department of Agriculture from Washington to Kansas City, Missouri, in 2019, and within the Bureau of Land Management from Washington to Grand Junction, Colorado, the following year.

In addition to taking time to undo, federal rules could also be the basis for lawsuits, hundreds of which have been filed to block Trump’s priorities on issues ranging from immigration to the environment during his presidency.

Congress also passed changes in response to issues that arose during the Trump administration. Lawmakers stopped presidents from unilaterally withdrawing the US from NATO and strengthened the Electoral Count Act, which Trump tried to put to the test on January 6, 2021, when he urged representatives to reject electors from states he lost in based on falsehoods he spread about voter fraud.

Advocates say Biden has more options to thwart a Trump administration, such as promoting expanded collective bargaining agreements with federal workers and beginning the complicated bureaucratic task of designating more government posts as policy-oriented, making workers harder to fire .

Much of this is about good governance, says Ben Olinsky, senior vice president for structural reform and governance at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the political arm of the Washington think tank. If you believe in a functioning government, then you should want to use these tools to anchor policy and ensure that there is continuity from one government to the next, regardless of who you think may or may not be in a few years’ time. will be in the White House.


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