Question: What is “burrowing in”?

Answer: It’s the unofficial but widely used term for political appointees getting jobs in the civil service. While appointees serve at the pleasure of the administration in power, career employees are supposed to be hired based on merit, and they have much stronger job protections.

Such conversions are highly controversial; each party is watchful of the other seeding the government with people who will hamper its policies.

However, they are rare. While the government hires more than 200,000 people a year, a 2010 Government Accountability Office report found only 139 such conversions from 2005 to 2009, and a 2016 GAO report found only 69 from 2010 to 2015.

Further, it said that proper hiring procedures were used in almost all cases. Agencies generally must get permission from the Office of Personnel Management to hire into a career job anyone who had been a political appointee within the past five years.

The OPM recently said that under a 2016 law, it now will scrutinize more types of political appointments and more ways of hiring into career jobs. Also, the House last week backed a general ban against taking a career position for two years after leaving a political position.