Ernst introduces bill to reduce size of federal bureaucracy, keep political appointees from 'burrowing'

The Iowa Republican plans to introduce the Reduce Bureaucracy Act on Wednesday to limit the size of the federal government while making sure that federal appointees “cannot ‘burrow’” into their agencies by taking a lifelong career role, according to a press release obtained first by Fox News.

Ernst is taking aim at the “unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.” in the release, saying that, more than enough times, these individuals have forced what they think is best on the people who live in less populated areas, like the rural parts of Ernst’s home state, Iowa.

“Too often, unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. think they know what’s best and make decisions that negatively affect the lives of folks in places like rural Iowa, and across what they like to call ‘fly over country,’” Ernst said in a statement.

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“Our democratic system wasn’t designed to be run by a large, unchecked federal bureaucracy, and this bill takes commonsense measures to limit the size and scope of the executive branch in Washington,” the Iowa Republican continued. “Iowans know what’s best for Iowa, and this legislation will help keep the power with the people.”

The bill aims to limit the number of  appointees at federal agencies, so they cannot “burrow” into the bureaucracy by transitioning their temporary positions into life long career roles, according to the press release. The bill will also narrow the definition of a “political appointee” and cap the total number of appointees to not exceed 2,000.

The legislation also “prohibits political appointees from employment in a career civil service role for two years” after they leave a presidential administration.

Additionally, if an agency wants to hire a former political appointee, the bill will compel the agency head to submit a written request to the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) associate director for merit systems accountability after the two-year period ends.

In order for the request to be approved, the agency head would have to prove that the hire is necessary for an agency to meet its mission.

Political appointees burrowing into civil service jobs is not new and has drawn ire in practice.

Each administration varies, but a president usually has the opportunity to fill around 4,000 political appointments, including about 1,200 positions requiring Senate confirmation. 

In order to keep their role in the executive branch, some political appointees convert into the civil service, or “burrow in,” because those positions do not terminate at the end of an administration. This creates concerns because an incoming president might not want supporters of the previous administration remaining in powerful government roles.

Of the 1,200 that require Senate approval, so far, President Biden has 199 nominees either confirmed or awaiting conrfirmation.

The hiring of political appointees is overseen by OPM, which said in February the burrowing limitations apply to people both before and after a presidential transition.

“The political affiliation of a current or former political appointee applying for a civil service position may not be a basis for discrimination nor preference or special advantages,” the agency said.

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