Trump Bypassing Senate to Install Nominees in Top Jobs

Posted by Dale Eisman on October 20, 2017


The Trump administration appears to be thumbing its nose at a federal law that requires the president to wait for the Senate to confirm his nominees for senior government positions before putting those nominees to work.

Politico reports this morning that four of Trump’s choices for jobs in three agencies have at least temporarily bypassed the confirmation process and are at work in the positions for which they were nominated. The administration action “appears to skirt the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which prohibits most people who have been nominated to fill a vacant government position from performing that office’s duties in an acting capacity,” the website said.

Two officials identified by Politico, Susan Bodine and Michael Dourson, have taken positions in the Environmental Protection Agency that appear to be identical to the jobs for which Trump nominated them. Doursen, for example, was nominated to head EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Protection; he works now as an adviser on chemicals to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency said.

The other officials identified in the Politico story, Mary Waters and Russell Vought, are in positions at the State Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget, respectively. Waters, nominated to be assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, is identified in an administration directory as the “acting” assistant secretary.

Whether they carry the “acting” title or not, “If they are ‘performing that office’s duties,’ and have been nominated, this runs afoul of the very purpose of the [Vacancies Reform Act],” Debra D’Agostino, a founding partner at the Federal Practice Group who focuses on federal employment, wrote in an email to Politico.

Trump is not the first president to run afoul of the Vacancies Act, which was passed after President Bill Clinton tried in 1998 to install an official at the Justice Department in an “acting” capacity after the Senate had rejected his nomination.

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Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Ethics

Tags: Executive Ethics

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