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Dems ask GAO to investigate Interior staff reassignments

Dems ask GAO to investigate Interior staff reassignments

Democratic lawmakers are pressing the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look into claims that numerous Interior Department employees have been reassigned for political reasons. 

In a letter sent to the GAO on Wednesday, eight Democrats expressed concern that as many as 33 members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) had been improperly reassigned after Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden launches blitz for jobs plan with 'thank you, Georgia' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court sets in motion EPA ban on pesticide linked to developmental issues | Trump Interior Secretary Zinke files to run for Congress, again | Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill Trump Interior Secretary Zinke files to run for Congress, again MORE took office last year.

Federal agencies are allowed to reassign employees in SES roles with some limitations. For example, agency heads cannot reassign SES employees until 120 days after they take office.

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"Congress created the SES program to enhance the workforce at federal agencies by developing a group of professionals to ensure delivery of high quality service to the public," the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

"We are concerned that mismanagement of this program could lead to premature retirements, lower morale within the federal workforce, higher costs for the Department, and discourage talented professionals from entering the SES."

The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellThis week: Congressional leaders to meet with Biden amid GOP reckoning Will Biden's NASA win the space race with China? Bill Nelson is a born-again supporter of commercial space at NASA MORE (Wash.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperCarper urges Biden to nominate ambassadors amid influx at border DC statehood bill picks up Senate holdout The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting MORE (Del.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMissouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run Demings asked about Senate run after sparring with Jordan on police funding MORE (Mo.), Tom UdallTom UdallStudy: Chemical used in paint thinners caused more deaths than EPA identified Oregon senator takes center stage in Democratic filibuster debate Bipartisan bill seeks to raise fees for public lands drilling MORE (N.M.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampEffective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Bill Maher blasts removal of journalist at Teen Vogue Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives MORE (N.D.) and Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneIntercept bureau chief: Democrats dropping support of Medicare for All could threaten bill's momentum House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 House Democrats criticize Texas's 'shortcomings in preparations' on winter storms MORE (N.J.), Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsOvernight Health Care: AstraZeneca may have included outdated data on vaccine trial, officials say | Pelosi says drug pricing measure under discussion for infrastructure package | Biden administration extends special ObamaCare enrollment until August Pelosi: Drug pricing measure under discussion for infrastructure package Bottom line MORE (Md.) and Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.).

Cantwell and Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee previously raised concerns about the reassignments after one Interior Department employee wrote in The Washington Post that he was reassigned for speaking about climate change.

The Interior Department's inspector general launched an investigation into the reassignments in September in response to a letter from the committee Democrats.