For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones’ newsletters.This is probably not a big vote-getter, but it’s worth a thought:
seriously i want congress to either completely rewrite the vacancies act or just repeal it altogether
— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) August 3, 2020
This tweet was spurred by President Trump’s latest temporary appointment: Anthony Tata, a retired brigadier general with a history of anti-Islamic tweets. The Senate made clear that Tata was not going to be confirmed as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, so instead Trump simply appointed him as “the official Performing the Duties of” the DUDP. He could do this because the Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 allows him to. Trump has used the Vacancies Act to appoint dozens (hundreds?) of temporary officials without the bother of Senate confirmation.
This is an abuse of the intent of the Vacancies Act, but in the spirit of bipartisan benevolence I’ll offer up a simple compromise: tighten up the Vacancies Act and at the same time cut way back on the number of executive branch officials who require Senate confirmation. There are about 1,200 of them these days, and that sure seems like overkill. Does every deputy undersecretary really need a full-dress Senate confirmation, after all?
So that’s that. Let Trump—and other presidents—appoint far more of their team than they do now, but for the positions that really matter get stricter about Senate confirmation. Given the intense partisanship of the Senate these days, this might also require placing some bounds on how long the Senate can keep a position from being filled, but that’s a subject for another days.