To quote Yogi Berra, “it’s like déjà vu all over again.” For at least the fourth time in just over two years, a dispute has arisen over the president’s authority to name “acting” agency heads under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA) of 1998. This time around, the debate involves the Department of Homeland Security—and the resignation/firing/un-resignation/ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
Appointments, Confirmations & Budgets
Beneath the high-profile conflicts over civil liberties or targeted killings, a myriad more mundane decisions lie at the intersection of national security and the law. Our constitutional process requires the advice and consent of the Senate for many high-level executive positions, including those responsible for national security, and each year, Congress must pass a budget that includes funding for the armed forces and intelligence agencies. Sometimes these confirmation and budgetary battles become proxy fights for larger and deeper disagreements, and often, they simply reflect the petty partisan politics of the age.