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Rep. Porter and House Committee Chairs Reintroduce Bill to Close Loopholes in Federal Vacancies Law

Washington, D.C. (May 3, 2021)—Today, at a hearing before the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA) announced her plan to reintroduce legislation to increase accountability for federal agency heads and other officials who have not been vetted by the Senate.  The Accountability for Acting Officials Act would limit who can serve as an “acting” official and for how long, closing loopholes in the current law.  The bill would also strengthen transparency and reporting requirements for acting officials.

At today’s hearing, Porter discussed the bipartisan history of vacancies law reforms and the support for her bill:

Porter also issued the following statement about her reintroduction tomorrow, May 4, of the Accountability for Acting Officials Act:

“Agency officials play a critical role in executing laws as they were intended by Congress, and we’ve seen what can happen when there aren’t guardrails in place to protect the public from unqualified, inexperienced officials.” Rep. Porter said.  “The previous administration took advantage of loopholes in the law, which enabled temporary, or acting, senior officials to serve for months—and some for years—without ever being vetted by the Senate.  I’m proud to introduce legislation that will ramp up accountability for acting agency heads, so that this doesn’t happen again.”

Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney commended Porter for her work on the bill, stating at the start of the hearing:

“Today we will also discuss the Accountability for Acting Officials Act, Congresswoman Porter’s bill to amend federal vacancies law.  I support this important bill, which would clarify and strengthen requirements around who can serve as an acting official, and for how long, when a Senate-confirmed position is vacant.  The bill would also increase transparency with new requirements for agencies to notify Congress about vacancies and for acting officials to testify regularly before Congress.”

Porter’s Accountability for Acting Officials Act would:

  • Limit acting agency heads to serving a maximum of 120 days from the date of the vacancy;
  • Require acting officials to testify before Congress at least once every 60 days;
  • Require acting Inspectors General to have relevant experience and qualifications; and
  • Close other loopholes that allow the President to appoint acting officials without experience in the agencies they lead.

Other Committee and Subcommittee chairs joined Porter and Maloney in sponsoring the legislation, including House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Government Operations Chairman Gerald E. Connolly, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, and House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano.

Porter’s legislation earned the support of leading vacancies expert Anne Joseph O’Connell, who submitted written testimony for today’s hearing.  The bill is also supported by 14 leading good government groups from across the ideological spectrum, which sent a support letter in support of the bill.

Click here to read the bill text.

Click here to read the one-pager.

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