Warren Has a Plan to Clean House After Trump: Campaign Week in Review

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Warren Has a Plan to Clean House After Trump: Campaign Week in Review

Dennis Carter

Advocates have feared that a Democratic administration couldn't fully rid the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of those committed to undermining the agency's mission.

Join Rewire.News for a weekly look at how reproductive health, rights, and justice issues are popping up on the 2020 campaign trail.

How a Warren Administration Could Save Reproductive Health Policy

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) thorough plan to flush Trump administration officials out of federal agencies could have an immediate impact on reproductive health policy in the United States.

“Restoring Integrity and Competence to Government After Trump” details how a Warren administration would weed out Trump appointees and create a set of rules to prevent corruption from taking hold of federal government policymaking. Among the steps Warren would take include preventing Trump’s political appointees from “burrowing” into career positions at federal agencies like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which today is controlled by activists hostile to reproductive health care and LGBTQ rights.

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The burrowing of radical anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ Trump administration officials has long been a concern among abortion and LGBTQ rights advocates. They fear that a Democratic administration could not fully rid HHS of those committed to undermining the agency’s mission, like Roger Severino, who has used the department’s Office of Civil Rights to investigate abortion providers under the guise of so-called conscience rights.

“President Trump has stacked agencies like HHS full of ideologues committed to a radical anti-equality agenda,” said Jessica Mason Pieklo, vice president of law and the courts for Rewire.News. “Throughout his first term, we’ve seen his appointments at key agencies like HHS propose and help enact some of the cruelest of this administration’s policies. If Democrats have any hope to undo the harm President Trump has inflicted via these agencies, they must address burrowing.”

The Trump administration in 2017 wasted no time filling critical HHS positions with abortion rights foes. And in 2018, Diane Foley, who ran a Christian group operating two anti-choice clinics in Colorado, was appointed deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at HHS. Foley is head of the office that oversees the Title X federal family planning program, which under Trump has poured federal funding into anti-choice organizations, while the domestic “gag rule” has forced Planned Parenthood out of Title X

HHS Secretary Alex Azar, meanwhile, has ensured the agency is used to accomplish anti-choice goals rather than address public health issues. Just this week, Azar dubbed HHS the “Department of Life” in a statement about the anti-choice March for Life.

“If Democrats have any hope to undo the harm President Trump has inflicted via these agencies, they must address burrowing.”

– Jessica Mason Pieklo

In her plan, Warren said her administration would “ask for the resignations of all political appointees, including U.S. Attorneys, save only those positions necessary to preserve continuity and protect national security during the transition period.”

A Warren administration would oversee conversions from political into career positions to ensure they comply with statutory standard, scrutinizing anyone trying to burrow into HHS or other federal agencies.

“The law outlines clear rules that help prevent political appointees from circumventing standard hiring practices and ‘burrowing’ into the government by converting from a political appointment into a career position,” according to Warren’s plan. “I will strengthen enforcement of rules around conversion from appointed positions to career civil service to root out officials who attempt to burrow into agencies.”

A February 2018 memo from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, referenced in Warren’s plan, says that while “political appointees may not be excluded from consideration for Federal jobs because of their political affiliation, they must not be given preference or special advantages.”

Burrowing into agencies has hardly been rampant in recent years. Between January 2010 and March 2016, 78 of 99 requests to convert a political appointee to a career position within a federal government agency were approved, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Report.

What Else We’re Reading

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) leads the Democratic primary field with less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, according to CNN polling released this week. Sanders now leads former Vice President Joe Biden among voters of color and is outpacing Warren among liberal voters. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they would be enthused about a Sanders nomination. Enthusiasm for a Biden nomination has dropped to 34 percent, and enthusiasm for a Warren Democratic nomination stands at 29 percent.

Twenty-seven percent of Michigan women who responded to a recent poll said they would vote to re-elect President Trump; 53 percent said they would support whoever wins the Democratic nomination, according to MLive. Overall, 53 percent of Michigan voters disapprove of Trump’s performance as president. He won Michigan in the 2016 election by 0.3 percentage points.

The New Republic reported on the “Punditworld praise” of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and how it “almost universally fails to reckon with one of the most significant stories of her candidacy: her reported abuse of her Senate staff.”