Acting leaders of federal agencies would serve for a maximum of four months under a new measure from Democratic House leadership that would seek to close many of the loopholes that have allowed President Trump and his predecessors to circumvent federal vacancy laws.
The Accountability for Acting Officials Act (H.R. 6689) would seek to prevent presidents from naming individuals to positions for the sole purpose of elevating them to a vacant Senate-confirmed role in an acting capacity. Trump has exploited this “first assistant” loophole on multiple occasions, altering lines of succession so an individual outside of government could head up an agency without the Senate’s advice and consent. The bill, introduced by Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., and cosponsored by every House committee chairman, would require all first assistants to have already served in their roles before the position to which they are being elevated went vacant.
“The administration’s longstanding failure to fill critical vacancies across the federal government—including vacancies that go back several years—has deprived agencies of stable, vetted leadership and aggravated the current pandemic crisis,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee. “This bill would institute critical reforms to require stability, expertise, and accountability when it is necessary for an administration to fill a vacancy temporarily.”