Donald Trump promised to hire only the “best people” to head government agencies, but two years into his four-year term, as many as a third to half of the federal agency executive positions he’s supposed to appoint are vacant, either because they resigned, were never confirmed by the Republican-led Senate, or were never nominated to begin with. The nonprofit group Partnership for Public Service has been keeping tabs on key executive branch nominations that require Senate confirmation — including Cabinet secretaries, deputy and assistant secretaries, chief financial officers, general counsels, and agency heads. Of the roughly 700 positions they’ve been tracking, only 433 have been confirmed.
And within the Department of Labor, fully half of the executive-appointed positions are still vacant two years in. Judging by the people Trump nominated to those posts, that might be for the best.
At the close of 2018, with the 115th Congress at an end, all pending nominations were returned to the president. He’ll now have to decide whether to renominate these folks. As of mid-January, none of the following had been re-nominated.
- OSHA: Scott Mugno To head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Trump nominated Scott Mugno, a former FedEx executive with a career-long history of opposing new OSHA regulations. At a January 2018 confirmation hearing, Mugno couldn’t name a single new OSHA rule he had supported during his two decades as safety chief at FedEx. The Republican-led committee approved him anyway, but his nomination never came up for a vote by the full Senate.
- Wage and Hour Division: Cheryl Stanton The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division is responsible for regulating and enforcing minimum wage, overtime, and family leave requirements, as well as prevailing wage laws for construction employees on federal contracts. To lead it, Trump nominated Cheryl Marie Stanton, a South Carolina workforce agency executive and member of the board of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. Stanton formerly clerked for federal judge Samuel Alito (the labor foe who later became Supreme Court justice and wrote the anti-union Janus decision.) She also worked as a White House lawyer for President George W. Bush, serving as the administration’s liaison to the Labor Department and the National Labor Relations Board. Her nomination passed out of the Senate Health, Labor and Pensions Committee in January 2018, but never got a Senate floor vote.
- Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation: Gordon Hartogensis To head the federal government’s pension insurance agency, Trump nominated Gordon Hartogensis, a wealthy private investor and Republican donor with no experience in government or pension fund management. Hartogensis, 48, retired at age 29. He has spent the last seven years managing his family’s money. He’s also married to Grace Chao, the sister of Trump’s Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and is thus the brother-in-law of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). spends most of his time now managing his family’s money.
- Employment and Training Administration: John Pallasch To head the agency in charge of job training and apprenticeships, Trump nominated John Pallasch, a Kentucky state workforce director and former Bush Jr. administration Labor Department official who also worked for anti-union education reformer Michelle Rhee.
— Don McIntosh