Multiple potential candidates for the GOP's 2024 presidential primary race support former President Donald Trump's plot to make it easier to purge civil servants deemed disloyal to their prospective administrations, Axios revealed Wednesday.
Noah Bookbinder, president and CEO of the government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), responded with alarm to the new reporting.
"It is distressing that leading contenders from one of our major political parties—not just Donald Trump—are reportedly committed to undercutting nonpolitical government employees, another step to significantly weaken our system of checks and balances," he said.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, confirmed they "support using a measure like Schedule F to reform the federal bureaucracy," according to Axios' Alayna Treene.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis along with Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., "wouldn't speak to Schedule F specifically, but they showed openness to the approach," Treene noted.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., declined to comment.
Shortly before losing the 2020 presidential election, Trump signed an executive order to create a new Schedule F category of federal employees who are easier to fire.
Though President Joe Biden rescinded the order, if Trump runs again in two years and wins, he is expected to revive the plan to reclassify thousands of workers, which has been condemned as "authoritarianism 101" and "a fascist takeover of our government."
Donald Moynihan, a professor at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy, recently wrote for Slate that "Schedule F would burn down the civil service system. It would be a government of the lawless leading the incompetent."
Fears about a Republican administration taking such action have grown since U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, last week unveiled the Public Service Reform Act, which he said would "empower federal agencies to swiftly address misconduct and remove underperforming or ill-willed employees."
As Common Dreams reported, Don Kettl, professor emeritus and former dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, said of Roy's move that "this is obviously a huge and major change, an effort to gear up a major assault on the federal employment system."
Kettl also warned that such efforts "aren't just Trump necessarily, and if Republicans take control of Congress following the midterms, this may very well go from idea to specific action."
Democrats—and a few Republicans—in Congress have responded with efforts to protect federal workers.
As U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., wrote in late July for The Washington Post:
Our federal workforce consists of roughly two million federal employees hired based on their acumen, and they work each day for the American people—serving in myriad capacities to improve this nation and America's posture abroad. These impartial civil servants research vaccines, help families in the wake of hurricanes and deadly fires, and inspect our food[s] to ensure they are free of disease. They deserve protection from political interference from a president who would place preserving his power above following the law.
Congress must assert itself and ensure no future president can repeat what Trump has already tried to do once, and now is reportedly planning to do again. For nearly two years, I have been trying to warn congressional leadership that protecting our 139-year, merit-based, civil service is fundamental to protecting our democracy.
That is why I have introduced the Preventing a Patronage System Act. The bipartisan legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), was passed by the House this month but has yet to be taken up by the Senate.
Though Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Mark Warner, D-Va., introduced the legislation in the upper chamber on Tuesday, it would require GOP support to reach Biden's desk.