Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has written a letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro asking a series of questions regarding the duties of two individuals recently appointed as "principal deputy assistant secretary" with HUD.
Grassley was referring to the March 26 appointment of Edward Golding as principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Housing to essentially fill the duties performed by the office of FHA commissioner, and the February 27 appointment of Lourdes Castro Ramirez to the position of principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) at HUD. Ramirez will essentially perform the duties of the assistant secretary for PIH but carries the title of principal deputy assistant secretary.
The principal assistant deputy secretary positions did not require confirmation from the U.S. Senate to fill, but will essentially be performing functions of the assistant secretary positions in their respective offices that require Senate approval.
The Senator contends in his letter that only Congress can create government officers and that Congress has not given HUD the power to bestow an assistant secretary's responsibility onto a principal deputy assistant secretary. Grassley pointed out in his letter that Congress passed the Vacancies Reform Act in 1998 that provided several mechanisms to fill vacancies in government offices, and "[c]reating new job titles is not among the allowable mechanisms listed."
Ramirez was nominated by President Obama for the position of assistant secretary with PIH in August 2014, a nomination that was approved by the Senate Banking Committee but blocked by Grassley in November and was never confirmed by the Senate. Regarding the appointment of Ramirez to principal deputy assistant secretary with PIH, Grassley wrote, "the Department appears to be evading the Senate confirmation process by creating a new leadership title."
Similarly, regarding Golding's appointment, Grassley wrote, "[a] nominee for the assistant secretary of FHA was never sent to the Senate. Instead, HUD once again created a new leadership title."
"Advice and consent by the Senate is a check required under the Constitution," Grassley wrote. "If HUD and the White House are purposely circumventing the nominations process, that is unacceptable."
In the letter, Grassley asked Castro to address five questions with regards to the appointments of Golding and Ramirez to the positions of principal deputy assistant secretary: Under what legal authority the principal assistant deputy secretary positions were created; what specific duties and responsibilities have been assigned to the principal deputy assistant secretaries; how those duties differ from the vacated assistant secretary positions; when the nominations for assistant secretary of those offices will be submitted; and how the duties and responsibilities of the assistant secretary positions will be filled if those positions remain vacant.
Grassley requested a response from Castro on or before May 15. HUD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.