Rep. Herbert Harris (D-Va.) yesterday introduced a bill that he believes would make it tougher for politicians to tamper with the career civil service system.
Harris' bill would outlaw political referrals or recommendations for merit system jobs, and require that all personnel director slots be kept in the career service. It also would specify legal conditions that political appointees would have to meet before they took career jobs into the noncareer or political service.
During the Nixon years, Harris says, White House and congressional sources (both Democrats and Republicans) used elaborate referral systems to place unqualified political appointees in career jobs. In some cases, personnel offices were bypassed or bullied into allowing the actions.
Harris believes that passage of his bill would provide new legal teeth to fight political tampering, and reaffirm the administration's support of the career civil service concept. Later this week, President Carter is expected to send Congress a comprehensive civil service reform package, aimed at streamlining government hiring and firing procedures.
One of the Carter proposals would create a new corps of both political and career executives who would be under more direct control of agency heads and the White House. Harris' plan to legally insulate personnel offices from political appointees would, if it works, go a long way toward ensuring that personnel actions do not get any more political than they already are.