WASHINGTON — In a speech that repeatedly touched on the importance of job creation, President Donald Trump also called on Congress to give government agencies the power to oust federal workers.
“All Americans deserve accountability and respect ― and that is what we are giving them,” Trump said during his first State of the Union Address. “I call on the Congress to empower every Cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.”
His comments drew applause from the Republican-controlled Congress.
Federal job protections make it difficult for the government to oust civil servants. But Trump advisers have discussed making that task easier, as well as instituting hiring freezes, weakening staff unions and reducing retirement benefits, as HuffPost has previously reported.
In a post to Twitter, Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, said Trump’s statement Tuesday “serves the goal of politicizing the career ranks.”
Tony Reardon, the national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, told FCW News that the president’s comments were “unfortunate” and left “the impression that federal employees are not dedicated to public service.”
“Federal employees must retain existing protections that stop unfair and arbitrary management practices, along with political favoritism and retaliation,” he told the publication. “Our workforce is non-partisan and merit-based and any reduction in due process protections is a step backward for our country,” Reardon said in an emailed statement.
Last week, The New York Times reported that Trump had attempted to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. He reportedly abandoned the idea after White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign.
This story was updated with a quote from Tony Reardon.