Acting Is Too Serious for the Business of Government

August 15, 2020 – The U.S. Government Accountability Office has ruled that the Acting Head of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, and his Acting deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, occupy their positions unlawfully because DHS did not follow the applicable rules for their appointment following Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation in 2019 (Washington Post,. August 15, 2020, A16).

While the rules in this case are unique to DHS, their violation illustrates a larger problem infecting many other areas of government. As reported by the Post (Wash. Post 2/21/20), as of February of this year, over twenty high-level Trump-administration individuals held their positions on an acting basis.

Bypassing the Senate in filling important government posts undermines our system of checks and balances because the Senate has had no say in their appointment. They are, thus, “acting” officials. They can be ordered by the President to do his bidding even if they lack the legal authority to do so and be fired without so much as a nod to Congress. The result is a yet another
step in the already worrisome concentration of power in the White House.
It is no disrespect to the performing arts to note that the business of government is too important to be left to mere actors.

Stan Marcuss
Washington, D.C.
Member, Lawyers Defending American Democracy

This letter was sent to the Washington Post, but not published.
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