The Trump plan to boot Obama's "burrowing" federal workers

When we get around to discussions of potential Trump administration policies, it seems as if there’s little appetite in the media for talking about anything other than the wall or Muslim immigration bans, but it seems there are a few more things cooking. During one interview this week, Chris Christie revealed plans to root out Obama administration appointees in the federal government and toss them once the new broom begins sweeping clean. Unfortunately, that’s more easily said than done in some cases. Most appointees can be dismissed when the new administration comes in, but not if they transfer from an appointed position to a regular, career federal employment assignment. As we’ve learned in far too many stories covered here, once that happens it’s virtually impossible to fire them even if they are convicted of felonies.

This conversion process is referred to as “burrowing” and it’s not the norm, but it’s legal if you can get the appropriate approval from the bureaucracy. Christie describes a process of compiling lists of such workers and implementing rules changes which would make it easier to dismiss them. This, of course, has the federal workers unions getting nervous. (Government Executive, some emphasis added)

Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., who is heading up Trump’s transition effort, told a group of donors at a private meeting he is helping compile a list of Obama appointees in executive branch positions at risk of being converted into career employees before the administration leaves office in January. That process, known as “burrowing in,” is legal but requires oversight and approval from the Office of Personnel Management.

To root out potential burrowers, Christie said — according to Reuters, which first reported the story — he is recommending Trump immediately work with Congress to change civil service laws. While the governor did not get into specifics, the process would likely mirror Republican efforts already under way to limit or strip entirely federal workers’ due process rights.

In terms of policy ideas, I’m not going to argue much with this one. Anything that provides for more flexibility and accountability when it comes to workers getting paid on the taxpayer dime is a good thing. The argument against such an idea coming from the unions is that these dismissals of politically favored staffers won’t allow them to maintain institutional knowledge. If it’s only a small percentage and they’ve only been around for a single administration I’m not sure how much “institutional knowledge” you’d really be losing.

But I emphasized one of the other complaints in the quoted article above for a reason. Government workers complain that such dismissals, strip entirely federal workers’ due process rights. Perhaps I’m old fashioned or just behind the times, but since when do anyone’s due process rights include having a job? I know you’re entitled to a speedy trial and an attorney if you’re accused of a crime (which seems to happen inordinately often in the federal workers ranks anyway) but… a job? In the private sector you’re entitled to a job for precisely as long as your employer feels you’re earning your pay and they have need of you. Pardon me if there isn’t a lot of sympathy for this complaint around the rest of the country.

In any event, this is a less well known policy point from Trump, but it sounds like a good one to me. Let’s get it out there for open debate and see what Hillary Clinton thinks of it.