At 300 days, Trump faces hundreds of key vacancies

At the important deadline set by the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, President Trump's pace for staffing key government positions continues to lag behind that of previous administrations.

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Approaching 300 days since the inauguration, President Donald Trump's pace for staffing key government positions continues to lag behind those of previous administrations.

While the Trump administration has upped its pace of nominations over the last 100 days, hundreds of key positions remain without permanent employees, including the deputy administrator of FEMA, the deputy secretary of the Commerce Department and the undersecretary for nuclear security at the Energy Department.

The Partnership for Public Service and the Washington Post have maintained an appointments tracker, keeping count of the Trump administration's status in filling the 600-plus positions subject to Senate confirmation. As of Nov. 14, the Trump administration had nominated 448 individuals to these positions, of which just 227 had been confirmed by the Senate. By the Partnership's count, this leaves 255 key positions requiring Senate confirmation that have no nominee.

The previous low on both counts was George H.W. Bush, who had made 452 appointments, of which 337 had earned Senate approval. Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Trump's two most recent predecessors, had made 562 and 669 nominations, respectively, by this point in their administrations.

The 300-day mark, which arrives Nov. 15, is significant because that's the time afforded to new administrations to replace officials serving on an acting basis in positions that require political appointees before their temporary terms expire under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

After this deadline, any statutory authority vested in the official devolves to the agency head, although there are a few exceptions. Decisions made by acting officials beyond the period called for under the Vacancy Act are not valid under the terms of the law.

The Departments of Labor, Education, Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency each have fewer than one-quarter of their politically appointed leaders in place.

The Departments of Justice and Energy lack even nominees for 30 of their combined 50 tracked positions. Moreover, the president has nominated only two of the five tracked positions within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Of the 21 agencies being tracked, only the Small Business Administration and the Central Intelligence Agency have at least half of their politically appointed positions in place. The two agencies combined to represent seven of the 470 tracked positions.

Confirmation time also has lagged under the Trump administration. The time between nomination and confirmation is considerably higher for Trump than for his predecessors, taking the Senate an average of 68 days to approve political appointments. Previously, Obama experienced the longest such duration, an average of 49 days per confirmation.

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