WH: The bill would prevent qualified experts from being replaced by political loyalists. Image: Orhan Cam/Shutterstock.com
With the House having again acted to prohibit the creation of a future Schedule F by executive order, attention has turned to the Senate, with several potential courts open for a bill that is now a high priority for the Democrats be enacted this year.
The House vote last week on a stand-alone bill (HR-302) follows a July vote on an amendment to the DoD Authorization Bill (HR-7900) to prevent an order like the one that President Trump issued in October 2020. This would have essentially made these positions politically nominal by removing appeal and union representation rights and ending the requirement for competition to fill these positions. President Biden revoked this order as one of his first actions.
After the latest House vote — which included defeating a Republican amendment that would have done the opposite of the bill’s intent and enacted a Schedule F — federal employee organizations and several Senate Democrats urged the Senate to adopt and adopt its own version (S -4702). The White House also backed the enactment, saying the bill “would help preserve federal employees’ due process rights and public service protections, while preventing any administration from firing qualified experts and replacing them.” by political loyalists”.
However, in both votes in the House, the language passed with the support of only half a dozen Republicans, making it doubtful that there would be the necessary 10 Republican votes under Senate rules for passage of most individual bills. A more likely route to approval may be through the Defense Spending Bill, which is considered an annual “must-pass” and usually becomes the vehicle for proposals that would not be passed as individual bills.
The Senate version of that bill authorized the committee level, but the timing of the floor vote is uncertain, with Congress slated for a recess at the end of this month until a post-election session from mid-November to december.
Proponents of language to block another Schedule F could propose it as an amendment that would only require a simple majority, with Vice President Harris available to break a potential tie. Or, members of the Senate in a conference with the House that would be necessary to resolve the differences between the two bills could accept the language of the House by producing a final bill that would go to another ballot.
The final version of the defense spending bill usually passes easily through both houses, although it may contain provisions objectionable to one side or the other.
Another option would be to attach language to another necessary measure, such as funding the government until fiscal year 2023, which begins October 1. The Senate sponsors of a Schedule F ban have included such language in a full-year supply bill, but only an interim bill is expected to pass before the November election.
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