Legislation that aims to block the possible return of a controversial Trump-era Federal workforce policy is trying to hitch a ride on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which the Senate is expected to take up on the floor for a debate and vote later this week.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., on July 14 announced he filed the legislation along with several other amendments to FY 2024 NDAA.

The legislation – Saving the Civil Service Act – would prevent a president from unilaterally stripping the civil service protections of tens of thousands of Federal workers by protecting the merit-based Federal workforce. The bill would prevent any position in the Federal civil service from being reclassified outside of merit system principles without the consent of Congress.

“Our Federal workers work tirelessly to deliver results for the American people and keep us safe,” Sen. Kaine said in a previous statement. “My amendment is critical to helping ensure Federal workers – including key national security personnel – are hired based on their qualifications, not their politics.”

In October 2020, President Trump signed an executive order (EO) – which is no longer in effect – establishing a new job Schedule F category for Federal workers in policy-related positions. The EO tasked agencies with finding career employees to transfer to the new classification, which would strip them of most of their civil service protections and make it much easier to hire and fire them.

A few agencies got close to implementing the policy, but ultimately no employees were reclassified before President Biden took office and quickly repealed the initiative.

The bill, according to Sen. Kaine, would secure the civil service and protect tens of thousands of Federal employees, including key national security personnel, from losing job protections and due process rights.

This marks the second straight year that the Virginia Democrat has sought to attach a measure requiring congressional approval for new Federal job classifications to the annual defense bill. Sen. Kaine attempted to attach his anti-Schedule F bill to the FY 2023 NDAA, but he could not secure a floor vote on the initiative, in part due to the sheer number of amendments lawmakers propose for the bill each year.

Sen. Kaine and several other Democrats first introduced the Saving the Civil Service Act in February as part of their two-year effort to make sure merit-based hiring remains the main way agencies hire Federal employees. For it to become law, the Senate would still have to pass the amendment and the House would have to accept it during the NDAA conference-committee negotiations.

Other amendments filed by Sen. Kaine include bipartisan legislation that would prevent any U.S. President from directing the U.S. to leave the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a bipartisan bill to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force against Iraq, and proposals to bolster alliances.

“As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a senator from one of the most military-connected states, I’m focused on ensuring the national defense bill is the best it can be to support our service members and national security,” said Sen. Kaine.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.