The Replacements: Why and How “Acting” Officials Are Making Senate Confirmation Obsolete

September 23, 2020

The Constitution vests responsibility for filling federal leadership positions in both the president and the Senate — the president nominates officials for key posts, and the Senate provides “advice and consent.” But in recent years, presidents have found it increasingly easy to sidestep this process altogether and to install temporary, “acting” officials in place of Senate-confirmed leaders. 

This report examines the prevalence of vacancies and temporary officials in Senate-confirmed positions, the use of acting officials and the reasons the nomination and confirmation process has broken down. This report also includes specific recommendations to address the prevalence of temporary officials, fix broken processes and improve accountability.

Publication Type: Research and Publications