The July 8 editorial on the extreme number of vacancies in positions that require Senate confirmation, “Mr. Trump’s ‘acting’ government,” was a welcome indication of how badly he is flouting norms that have served our nation. The Constitution requires the president to obtain confirmation for leaders of the major government bureaus. Unconfirmed “acting” officials at least have received a temporary appointment, which can last for 210 days under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.
In the Interior Department, the situation is worse than the editorial portrayed. Mr. Trump and Secretary David Bernhardt have evaded the 210-day limit for the directors of the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management. Together, they manage land areas totaling about one-sixth of the country. Yet, none has even had an “acting director” named by Mr. Trump, instead being run by secretarial appointees to whom Mr. Bernhardt claims to have “re-delegated” the authority of the offices. Those appointees have stayed for much longer than 210 days. It is a template for converting our system into an autocracy.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is the chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has the power to conduct the “advice and consent” hearings the Constitution requires. Yet she demands nothing from Mr. Trump, who has not even bothered to nominate anyone to lead those three key agencies that her committee oversees.
Peter T. Jenkins, Silver Spring
The writer is senior counsel for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.