The Trump administration is pushing the limits of an obscure federal law that restricts nominees from serving in federal positions before they’re approved by the Senate.
A POLITICO review has identified four officials at three different agencies doing substantially similar work to the position for which they have been nominated – despite not yet getting a green-light from the Senate.
The hires reflect increasing impatience in federal agencies that key jobs remain unfilled nine months into the new administration.
President Donald Trump has complained repeatedly that Democrats are moving too slowly to confirm his nominees, though he’s also said he intends to leave many jobs empty. Democrats counter that the onus is on Trump, who has not yet announced nominees for a slew of key positions across the government.
Either way, lawyers and other experts said the moves – including by the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget – to have unconfirmed nominees show up for work 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.
It’s unclear whether the officials in question are in direct violation of the law, but some experts said the administration appears to be defying its intent.
“This seems like it goes further than most examples I have seen,” said Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “It seems like in some cases they’re taking people and potentially giving them roles that go beyond what they’re supposed to have.”