House Democrats are pushing the president to speed up nominations to the Interior Department on the heels of a complaint the agency is temporarily filling roles with existing staff to avoid seeking Senate confirmation.
“Fifty-nine percent of key [Interior] positions have yet to be filled; fewer than half of those vacant even have a nominee awaiting Senate approval,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, wrote in a letter to President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE.
“Your administration is abdicating its constitutional duty to nominate qualified individuals into these important roles, instead enlisting individuals in an acting capacity who are more loyal to a political agenda than the missions of the agencies and departments they should be leading,” the letter said.
The administration has numerous vacancies in high-level positions across multiple departments and agencies.
Grijalva’s letter outlines a long list of positions that have gone unfilled at Interior, ranging from the deputy of the department to agency heads that oversee offshore oil and gas leasing, land management and mining.
On Tuesday, an ethics group filed a complaint with the agency's Office of Inspector General, saying the department had shuffled controversial employees into roles using steps that avoid Senate confirmation.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility argued the agency is violating federal law on vacancies by “temporarily redelegating” roles to existing employees for the 27th time under the Trump administration.
A May 23 order from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was the latest example of the maneuver.
Grijalva asked the administration to produce a detailed timeline of when they plan to make nominations for the numerous vacancies.