Democrats wrote a letter to Michael Dourson, President Donald Trump's nominee to be the EPA's top toxic chemical regulator, claiming it would be unlawful for him to accept the position because he already works there.
Dourson began serving as a special advisor to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt despite not receiving any votes in the Environment and Public Works Committee or the full Senate in violation of the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which prevents individuals from performing the activities of a Senate-confirmed position without having first been confirmed, The Hill reports.
The 10 members of the Environment and Public Works Committee wrote in the Oct. 24 letter that Dourson's job position "creates the appearance, and perhaps the effect, of circumventing the Senate's constitutional advice and consent responsibility for the position to which [he has] been nominated."
Democrats are already not satisfied with Dourson's nomination due to his ties to the chemical industries he would be tasked with regulating, NBC News reports. In their letter, the Democrats also demanded to know more about his current role at the agency.
EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox rebuffed claims that Dourson's work activities violated any laws, The Hill reports.
"The NLRB v. Southwest General decision held that the Vacancies Act prevents a person who has been nominated by the president to fill a vacant Senate-confirmed position ‘from performing the duties of that office in an acting capacity,’" Wilcox said. "Dr. Dourson is a senior adviser to the administrator and is not ‘performing the duties’ of the [position], which is what occurred in previous administrations."
The Environment Committee is set to vote on whether to send Dourson's nomination to the full Senate on Oct. 25. The vote has already been delayed one week after Republicans first learned of his role at the agency, NBC News notes.
Dourson is not the only EPA nominee speculated to be in violation of the 1998 law. Democrats have expressed concerns about Susan Bodine, Trump's nominee to head EPA enforcement.
A Politico report published on Oct. 20 highlighted several individuals at three government agencies believed to be working in the positions they've been nominated for without Senate confirmation.
Legal experts say certain employees at the EPA, the U.S. Department of State and the White House Office of Management and Budget appear to "skirt" the Vacancies Act, although one legal scholar said the workers Politico pointed out probably violated the act "more in spirit than in letter."
Politico speculates the agencies might have some employees perform duties without Senate approval out of impatience for those jobs still being vacant nine months into Trump's administration.
President Trump and Democrats argue over who's to blame for the vacant seats. Though Trump has stated that he plans to keep several seats empty, he says Democrats are taking too long to confirm his nominations. Democrats say Trump is responsible for the vacancies since he has yet to announce nominees for multiple positions.