Watchdog: Administration Flouting Law to Put Failed Buttigieg Nominee in Charge of Highway Safety

Watchdog: Administration Flouting Law to Put Failed Buttigieg Nominee in Charge of Highway Safety

  • November 7, 2023
PPT files a complaint over the Biden Administration’s attempt to circumvent Senate’s constitutional authority

Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) announced today it has filed a complaint with the Department of Transportation over the Biden Administration’s attempt to bypass the Senate’s Constitutional advice and consent power. In appointing Ann Carlson as acting Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) after her nomination to the post had not advanced out of committee and was withdrawn, the administration appears to be breaking the law.

After former NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff resigned President Biden nominated Ms. Carlson to replace him as one of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s chief deputies. But she received harsh criticism from the public and members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the committee handling her nomination, for activism and lack of experience related to the office’s stated mission to “save lives, prevent injuries and reduce economic costs due to road traffic crashes, through education, research, safety standards and enforcement activity.” Two months after submitting her nomination, President Biden withdrew it, but thereafter appointed Ms. Carlson to the NHTSA head role in an “acting” capacity.

The Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA), created to limit a President’s ability to evade the Senate’s authority in the nomination process, states the President may “direct an officer or employee of [an] Executive agency to perform the functions and duties of the vacant office temporarily in an acting capacity” for a prescribed period of time. But the law is clear – the President cannot appoint an acting officer if (A) during the 365 days prior to the vacancy arising, “such person” did not serve for at least 90 days “in the position of first assistant to the office of such officer” and (B) the “President submits a nomination of such person to the Senate for appointment to such office.”

PPT asserts that Ms. Carlson’s appointment to an “acting” position was unlawful, and that any actions she takes or has taken in the role “shall have no force or effect” and “may not be ratified” under the FVRA.

“Presidential nominees must earn their positions through procedures sanctioned by the Constitution and federal law, not through back-door attempts to circumvent the power of a co-equal branch of government,” Protect the Public’s Trust Director Michael Chamberlain stated. “This appears to be yet another example of the self-proclaimed most ethical administration in history disregarding legal restrictions whenever they are inconvenient to its agenda. It’s becoming more and more clear why the American public’s trust in its government has virtually vanished.”