Trump promised ‘best people’ would run government — they upended it

Trump promised ‘best people’ would run government — they upended it
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Who is running our government? It is true that the presidential transition is a difficult process. There are upward of 4,000 positions to be filled by presidential appointment. However, of 614 key positions in the Trump administration requiring Senate confirmation, only 203 have been confirmed by the Senate, 150 have been formally nominated, 10 are still awaiting nomination, and 251 positions have no nominee. According to Max Stier, the CEO of the nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition, the Trump administration is lagging behind almost every modern-day president.

Trump’s failure to move his nominees through the confirmation process has real world implications. The nominee for EPA’s top law enforcer, the head of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Susan Bodine, still has not been confirmed. EPA’s normal process of catching and punishing polluters has been disrupted for an entire year. Instead, cases are piling up, and EPA is unable to move quickly to protect public health.

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On the other side of the spectrum, Trump’s nominees are often so odious and unsuited for their positions that they have difficulty earning Senate confirmation. Michael Dourson, the nominee to head EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, is another case in point. Thought to be a shill for the chemical industry, he was involved in setting a West Virginia standard for PFOA that was at least a thousand times higher than EPA’s current safety level. The Senate has yet to find that he is worthy of protecting the American people from chemical contamination. 

 

This is particularly troubling given Mr. Trump’s penchant for recruiting the “best people” for his administration and picking fights on Twitter using polarizing and outlandish declarations himself that push the boundaries of human decency.

Private citizens and elected officials alike are asking whether Mr. Trump is fit to perform the responsibilities of the Office of President of the United States. Certainly, recent news reports that the Republican leadership in the House and Senate are weighing their options.

Fortunately, there is a modicum of hope in the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution (adopted on Feb. 16, 1967). Section 4 of the 25th Amendment allows a majority of the president’s cabinet to declare in writing to the president pro tempore of the Senate (Utah's archconservative Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchThe FDA crackdown on dietary supplements is inadequate Orrin Hatch Foundation seeking million in taxpayer money to fund new center in his honor Mitch McConnell has shown the nation his version of power grab MORE) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives (Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFive takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump MORE of Wisconsin), that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Congress would then have to assemble and determine by a two-thirds vote of both chambers that the President is unfit to serve.

However, look at the president’s Cabinet. It is alarming that hostile zealots occupy vital positions, and many among them counteract the intended values of their agency. That includes Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA knows this pesticide is dangerous, so why did it reverse the ban? Archives investigation finds no ‘secret' Pruitt calendars existed California has sued the Trump administration 46 times. Here are the lawsuits MORE at EPA, Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeInterior looking to rely on staffers with less training for park law enforcement: report DOJ investigation into former Interior chief goes to grand jury Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House MORE at Interior, Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryDems open new front against Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: State of the Union takeaways | Sights and sounds from the night | Virginia attorney general admits he wore blackface Energy Secretary Rick Perry is designated survivor for 2019 State of the Union MORE at Energy, Sonny Purdue at Agriculture, Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosWest Virginia teachers just struck against a windfall for public schools Students call on DeVos to offer free tampons, pads in schools to address 'period poverty' DeVos recovering from broken pelvis, hip socket after bicycle accident MORE at Education, Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Can Bernie recapture 2016 magic? Democrats veer left as Trump cements hold on Republicans Trump HUD official: 'I don't care if I'm not supposed to be tweeting during the shutdown' MORE at HUD. The list goes on as each ideolog would redefine an antithetical purpose of their confirmation.

Pruitt and Zinke have been particularly adept at upending what their respective agencies stand for. Pruitt consistently, and spectacularly, disregards the scientific advice of EPA career scientists, preferring the advice of polluting industries in “protecting” the environment.

Zinke is expected to accompany Trump to the Bears Ears and Grand Escalante-Staircase National Monuments this week, to drastically reduce their size and scope so the American people have less, not more, natural land under protection from development. It’s hard to see how cabinet officers who do not honor the mission of their own departments would honor their commitment to the Constitution under the 25th Amendment.  

Even when they are confirmed, Trump’s nominees have trouble complying with the simple ethical rules that would allow them to stay in office and serve the American people. Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceIs a presidential appointment worth the risk? Former Ryan aide moves to K street Grassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices MORE served less than eight months in office because he implicated ethical rules by flying on pricy private planes for government travel. Pruitt and Zinke have also come under fire for using private planes at exorbitant cost on the public dime. Pruitt has been investigated for lying under oath to Congress and violating the Hatch Act, leading one to wonder how these could be “the best people.” 

John O’Grady is president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) National Council of EPA Locals #238 representing over 9,000 bargaining unit employees at the U.S. EPA nationwide.