Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Wednesday that if he wins his bid for the White House he would try to get rid of four federal agencies as part of a longtime conservative effort to reduce the size and strength of the federal government.
“We would do Education, we would do Commerce, we’d do Energy, and we would do IRS,” DeSantis said in an interview with Fox News.
“If Congress will work with me on doing that, we’ll be able to reduce the size and scope of government,” he continued, adding that if Congress won’t allow him to eliminate the agencies he is targeting, he will instead use the executive offices to “push back against woke ideology and against the leftism” that he believes exists within the agencies.
Making a pledge to abolish multiple federal agencies is an effort from DeSantis to distinguish himself by moving further to the right. But the plan to attack the agencies internally if Congress doesn’t work with him is certainly not a new plan – Donald Trump did the same thing, he just called the perceived rot (“woke ideology” and “leftism”) by another name (the “deep state”).
In October 2020, just two weeks before Election Day, Trump signed an executive order establishing a new Schedule F employment category for federal employees. Schedule F allowed thousands of federal workers to be designated as at-will employees, making them effectively exempt from protections that stop sitting presidents from applying political pressure on federal agencies and bringing in their own loyalists.
President Joe Biden rescinded the order shortly after taking office. But in March of 2022, Trump floated the possibility of bringing back Schedule F to go after the federal workforce if he’s reelected.
“We will pass critical reforms making every executive branch employee fireable by the president of the United States,” he said at a rally in South Carolina. “The deep state must and will be brought to heel.”
DeSantis has been trying to one-up former President Donald Trump since announcing his 2024 bid in May, so the effort to take Trump’s plan and broaden it is not surprising.
But efforts to overhaul the federal government have been floating around right-wing and libertarian circles for years. And since Trump’s reluctant exit from the White House, his cronies (like Jeffrey Clark and Russ Vought) have been plotting how a next Republican president might not just broaden and expand Trump’s Schedule F efforts, but defang and politicize the Justice Department as well.
And DeSantis isn’t the first Republican presidential candidate to call for abolishing federal agencies in recent memory.
In 2011, during a primary debate, then-Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry (R) said he would eliminate three federal agencies. He named two of them — Commerce and Education — but could not remember the third one — the Energy Department.
Years later, during the Trump administration, he was named to lead the same department he couldn’t name five years ago.