Nearing the end of its first year, the Biden administration is starting down the same path as the Trump administration by letting unconfirmed lower officials manage key bureaus in the Interior Department. As under Trump, actions by these quasi-acting agency heads are now potentially vulnerable to legal challenge. The Biden administration should not use the Trump vacancy playbook.
Leaving positions that require Senate confirmation vacant creates complications arising from provisions of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. This law provides a new president with a 300-day “grace period” after inauguration to have his or her agency directors confirmed by the Senate in accordance with the Constitution’s “advice and consent” clause.
Yet more than 320 days after Biden’s inauguration, six of the 14 top positions at Interior that require Senate confirmation are still filled by lower-level officials on a temporary basis.