Hatch Act

THE effort to alter the Hatch Act to allow federal employees to engage in partisan political activity - banned since 1939 - is misguided. The Hatch Act, enacted during the New Deal, was designed to curb the politicizing of the federal bureaucracy, including pressures from higher-ups on recalcitrant workers who might not want to support a particular campaign or political cause. Unions have sought to alter the bill in the name of restoring ``political rights'' to government employees.

Earlier this month the House, by a substantial 305-to-112 margin, voted to repeal provisions of the act. The nation's 3 million federal civil servants would now be allowed to run for office in off-duty hours, manage campaigns, and solicit contributions, on their own time.

The Reagan administration, business groups, and Common Cause oppose repealing the Hatch Act. They have the stronger case. The Hatch Act has helped safeguard the political system from coercion and favoritism. Federal workers serve all Americans. They should be required to show strict neutrality toward competing ideological or political interests. Workers still retain the essential political rights of voting for and financially supporting candidates and causes.

The Senate should refrain from altering the Hatch Act. If repeal clears Congress, President Reagan should veto the measure, much as President Ford vetoed a similar attempted revision in 1976.

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