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Ernst Seeks to Prevent Political Appointees from Using Influence to “Burrow” into the Bureaucracy

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the Political Appointee Burrowing Prevention Act to ensure those who serve as political appointees at federal agencies cannot “burrow” into the bureaucracy by transitioning their temporary positions into life-long career roles.

A political appointee is an employee who is hired by the sitting administration to help achieve the administration’s established policy goals. While most political employees leave federal service at the end of the administration, some try to convert into career employees, typically targeting high paying, senior level jobs. This practice is known as “burrowing” and can unfairly allow a political appointee to use his/her political position and influence to jump in front of other qualified and deserving career employees. According to a 2017 study by the Government Accountability Office, 467 political appointees became career employees between 1998 and 2016.   

“The bipartisan Political Appointee Burrowing Prevention Act works to end ‘burrowing’ and enact commonsense restrictions on this Washington-insider practice,” said Senator Ernst. "The American people do not need appointees from past administrations, who have become entrenched in the Washington bureaucracy, wielding their influence and clogging the gears of the federal agencies trying to serve our country. While political appointees do play a vital role in achieving the policy goals of an administration, they should not be allowed to immediately become career employees when their administration leaves town.”  

The Political Appointee Burrowing Prevention Act:

  • Prohibits political appointees from employment in a career or life-time civil service role for two years after leaving the administration.
  • Requires any political appointee within the last five years seeking a career position to observe the two year “cooling off” period.
  • Requires the head of a government agency to submit a written request to the Office of Personnel Management if they are seeking to hire a former political appointee to a career position following the two year period.
    • The agency head must then prove that the hire was necessary for the agency to meet its mission.

Read the bill text of the Political Appointee Burrowing Prevention Act here.