A plan to give lifetime protection against no-fault downgradings and demotions to most federal workers will be taken up by the full House within two weeks.
Although the job insurance bill is relatively noncontroversial, and backed by the Carter administration, it may suffer because it is linked to the administration's overall plan to "reform" the civil service. That reform package, as cleared by the House Post Office-Civil Service Committee, contains a number of items the Senate doesn't like, and some the White House will oppose even though it wants reform as the "Centerpiece" of the President's reorganization effort.
In clearing the Carter reform plan, the House committee added a number of items that make the package a "Christmas tree" with some gifts that are unacceptable to the president.
Attaching the job demotion protection bill to civil service reform guarantees that the Senate and House will at least take a look at the proposal this year. But other additions and deletions to the reform plan the White House originally sent up could doom the whole reform plan this year.
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, for example, ignored one of the major "reforms" Carter wanted, the phase-out of lifetime hiring and tenture benefits for military veterans. The Senate also preserves the so-called "rule of three" in making civil service job selections, limiting managers to choosing among the top three candidates on the job lists. The Carter administration says that has to go, because it unwisely narrows the options bosses have to pick the people they want for jobs.
The Senate has also, in the words of Civil Service Commission Chairman Alan K. Campbell, "seriously weakened" the Senior Executive Service.As proposed by the adminstration, the SES would take in 9,200 top career and appointed federal officials, putting them under a tough carrot-and-stick, produce or perish personnel system. The Senate wants to limit the SES to a 2-year test, a time limit senior Carter aides believe would allow the bureaucracy time to chew up the SES and buy it at the end of the test period.
The House committee also adds "reforms" of the Hatch Act which the administration supports, but doesn't want part of the civil service reform bill. That plan, already passed by the House, would eliminate most of the "no-no's" that, since 1939, have kept federal and postal employes out of active partisan politics.
The White House say it is firmly behind the Hatch Act revisions proposed by Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.), and easily cleared by the House months ago. But the Senate has been less than enthusiastic about the Hatch Act changes. That is why the House committee put them in the Carter bill, and that is why the White House wants it out of the civil service reform package.
Federal and postal union leaders consider Hatch Act reform their main legislative goal this year. In addition to its stated objectives of removing the stigma of "second class citizenship" from 2.6 million federal workers, unions leaders know that the Hatch Act changes would give organized labor tremendous new political clout at the federal, state and local level.
Unions and union members who now cannot openly engage in partisan politics would (like all other civil servants) be able to come out of the political closet, and ring doorbells, collect money and run as candidates in partisan elections if the Hatch Act changes are made.
Union lobbyist believe - or say they believe - that the full Senate would approve the hatch Act changes as part of overall civil service reform. But they have had a hard time finding a "big name" senator - they want Edmund Muskie (D-Maine) - to floor manage the bill. By linking it to civil service reform, they hope to get Senate action on the Hatch Act.
The "Christmas tree" nature of the civil service reform bills headed for Senate and House debate will make it tougher to pass. There are things in the House measure the Senate doesn't want, and things in both bills the White House opposes.
Linked to the fate of the civil service reform is the one "reform" probably all civil servants favor. That is the guarantee that they won't be downgraded or demoted because of a job classification error they didn't make, or because reorganization of their agency bumps them down a grade.