The Federal Vacancies Reform Act and Implications for Presidential Transitions

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The Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA) is a federal statute permitting the President to appoint acting officials to fill vacancies that arise within federal departments and agencies when certain conditions are met. Last amended in 1998, the law represents a compromise of sorts between the Legislative and Executive branches, which share power regarding the appointment and confirmation of many federal officers. The FVRA’s use in recent years to fill vacancies within the Departments of Justice and Veterans Affairs and agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, among others, has been controversial. What are the limits of the FVRA? Is the FVRA constitutional as applied to the appointment of acting principal officers? Does it apply when an organic agency statute also provides for a more specific succession plan? Does it apply to vacancies created by firing rather than temporary absence, death or resignation? Who has standing to challenge an FVRA appointment or the actions of an FVRA appointee? How should the incoming Administration think about the use of FVRA?


Thomas Berry, Research Fellow, Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute 

Stephen Migala, Attorney-Adviser, U.S. Department of State

Anne Joseph O'Connell, Adelbert H. Sweet Professor of Law, Stanford Law School

Moderator: Brian Johnson, Partner, Alston & Bird



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