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Cortney O Brien

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Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) senses something fishy going on at the Environmental Protection Agency just a week into the Biden administration. It appears that EPA Principal Deputy General Counsel Melissa Hoffer asked the DOJ to place a hold on EPA-related litigation via a letter on January 21. In a letter of her own to the EPA Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office Comptroller General, Blackburn is calling for an investigation into Hoffer’s potential ethics violations.

The Federal Vacancies Reform Act provides the exclusive means by which a government employee may temporarily perform the non-delegable functions and duties of a vacant advice-and-consent position in an executive agency, the Congressional Research Service explains. And from where Blackburn is standing, it looks like Hoffer is trying to pose as the EPA’s Acting General Counsel. Which, as the senator explains in detail below, Hoffer has no constitutional authority to do so:

“On her first day on the job, Ms. Hoffer swiftly sent a memorandum to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting that the Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division attorneys ‘seek and obtain abeyances or stays of proceedings in pending litigation seeking judicial review of any EPA regulation promulgated between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021.’ Ms. Hoffer electronically signed the letter in her purported capacity as EPA’s Acting General Counsel. In her haste to deliver her message, Ms. Hoffer neglected to acknowledge that the Acting General Counsel role is vacant and she only serves in the inferior role of Principal Deputy General Counsel—as confirmed by EPA’s current organizational chart.

“This is potentially a violation of the FVRA and the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The FVRA grants the President—and only the President—the limited authority to appoint acting officials while preserving the Senate’s advice and consent power. The only individuals who may perform the functions and duties of EPA General Counsel in an acting capacity are: (1) the first assistant to the vacant office; (2) an individual already serving in a Senate confirmed office who is directed by the President to serve as the acting officer; or (3) a senior officer or employee already serving at EPA who is directed by the President to serve as an acting officer. But if Ms. Hoffer is indeed the EPA Acting General Counsel, it does not appear she can hold the position through any of these three paths. She was not the ‘first assistant’ when the vacancy arose; she had not been serving in a Senate-confirmed office; and she had not been employed by any other EPA component in the year prior to the vacancy. And, if the President has not directed Ms. Hoffer to serve as the Acting General Counsel under one of these scenarios, she may not take it upon herself to install herself into a position the Senate has not confirmed.”

Sen. Blackburn cites a second potential offense in Ms. Hoffer’s self-appointment, which Blackburn says places her “in a position to supervise the litigation of multiple cases where she previously appeared as opposing counsel against the agency.”

“One day into the job, EPA’s new leadership is already running afoul of the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” Blackburn regretted.

Author: Cortney O’Brien

Source: Town Hall: Sen. Blackburn Says Something Is ‘Running Afoul’ at the New EPA

Gov. Andrew Cuomo pulled off an incredible about-face on Monday. With the COVID-19 vaccine now being administered throughout the state, he’s suddenly decided that it’s time to reopen the economy.

“We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass,” Cuomo said. “The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open. We must reopen the economy, but we must do it smartly and safely.”

The contrast from a few months ago wasn’t lost on Cuomo’s many critics.

Some social media users wondered if he was only now open to opening the economy because the Democrats are about to take control in Washington.

“And it begins….this whole lockdown bulls*it was just about securing the election,” one Twitter user wrote.

“Now watch how fast democrat supporters start saying we need to open up the country,” wrote another. “Was it worth all the lost small businesses just to win an election?”

Others simply wondered if President Trump had hacked the governor’s Twitter.

Republican lawmakers were confused by the governor’s change of heart. Leader of the New York State Assembly Republican Conference Will Barclay released a statement cheering Cuomo’s words but criticizing how he’s going about it.

“Certainly, I agree with him on these goals,” Barclay said. “But he presented far too little help for small businesses, direct assistance to families, future logistics on the state’s slow vaccination rollout or how he plans to address New York’s mounting debt and precarious budget deficit.”

Cuomo is also catching flak for how he’s handled the New York vaccination rollout. He waited days to open up the process to senior citizens, and when he did they found a complicated, convoluted application. He’s also announced that vaccinations are going to be by appointment only.

Author: Cortney O’Brien

Source: Townhall: Cuomo Suddenly Decides It’s Time to ‘Reopen the Economy’

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