Lucia v. SEC: Justice Breyer Warns of a Dramatic Expansion of the President's Control Over the Federal Civil Service

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Kirk McGill[*] & Ben K. McGill[*]

The “Appointments Clause” mandates that “any appointee exercising significant authority pursuant to the laws of the United States is an ‘Officer of the United States,’ and must, therefore, be appointed in the manner prescribed by” the United States Constitution. Thus, the Constitution requires Officers of the United States to receive a commission from a “higher officer.” Accordingly, the President appoints the heads of the “Great Departments” (e.g. cabinet secretaries) with the advice and consent of the Senate, and either these “principal officers,” or the President as Chief Executive, appoint their respective subordinates. This ensures that each officer is accountable to a single superior, and that single superior is either the President or accountable (directly or indirectly) to the President and ultimately to the American electorate. For the first 150 years of the Republic’s history, the vast majority of the Executive Branch consisted of officers, inferior and superior (principal), appointed pursuant to the Constitution and subject to removal by the President or the appointing principal officer at any time and for any reason. In contrast, upon entering office, President Donald Trump had only 554 appointments to make in the Executive Branch out of 2,087,747 nonmilitary Executive Branch employees in Federal Fiscal Year 2017.

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