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The hire power

Politico reports that Health and Human Services has a new deputy assistant secretary for public affairs. He is Tait Sye, media director for Planned Parenthood for the last four and a half years. At HHS, according to Politico, he will handle communications for the public health portfolio--the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention--areas "where you can be pretty sure abortion and contraception issues will come up."Sister Mary Ann Walsh, head of media relations for the USCCB, was considered for the job but HHS decided that hiring a religious sister would violate the First Amendment and, besides, it might annoy the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. No, I just made that last sentence up.Anti-abortion groups are outraged by the new HHS hire, Politico reports. If all this is true, I'm not exactly outraged myself, just fairly dismayed.Here's the Politico story:

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The Obama Administration's message to Catholics: 'We don't need you. We think we can win the election without you. Don't let the door hit you in the *ss on the way out.'

And the problem with Mr. Sye is exactly what?????Do mid-level employees of federal agencies need to pass some kind of Catholic p.c. gauntlet these days?Would it be OK for a communications person from the USCCB to take a job with PP - or HHS?

Bender: I'm giving you a time out.

It's good to see that Peter Steinfels has a sense of humor about the CDF.

Jim Pauwels: John Allen of NCR claims that the Catholic vote in the United States divides up as 45% Republican and 45% Democratic, with 10% who might go one way or the other on any given vote.So President Obama will not win the 45% of American Catholics who vote Republican.So I see no good reason for him to be concerned about them, because they are just conservative Catholics.

Jimmy Mac: Isn't this some version of putting the fox in charge of the hen house--and then letting him sell the parts?

Sounds like he has some expertise dealing with these issues. The question-- or assumption -- is his bias which some seem to presume here. He's not the one to endear himself to the 45% or perhaps even the 10%, but if every appointment has to be now vetted in this way, I think we're in for a long season in the minutiae. Could anyone even name the top officials of HHS beyond Sebelius before all this started let alone their backgrounds or religious sensibilites?

Another confusing analogy. Why is Tait Sye a fox? Why is Planned Parenthood a hen house?Those who think women should be barefoot and pregnant, or better yet, in the graveyard, would enjoy studying the old census pages at ancestry.com. Many families had nine or more children. After burying the first old hen, the rooster would marry a young pullet to cook and clean and wash and sew for the first brood while hatching a second.

A "long season in the minutiae" hits the nail on the head. Meanwhile, only fifteen percent of twenty-somethings attend Mass regularly, diocesan sexual abuse review boards still can't control what they see or the implementation of their recommendations, there's a shortage of priests, parishes and schools are closing, etc. etc. etc.

HHS isn't a henhouse and PP isn't a fox. Planned Parenthood provides medical services to 1 out of 5 women, typically younger women who otherwise have significant issues obtaining medical care. I used Planned Parenthood when I was a teenager and in my early 20s. Why every medical need women have is considered trivial or illegitimate in comparison to the symbolic need Catholics have to pretend that they actually uphold Church teaching on the issue of contraception and abortion is simply beyond me. This is a low level position (notice the preface "deputy") and not a policy position of any kind.

Isnt this some version of putting the fox in charge of the hen houseand then letting him sell the parts?HHS (and the current administration) are not at odds with Planned Parenthood. Face the fact that Obama is a strong supporter of abortion rights, as is Sebelius. Obama never said or implied he was going to make "pro-life" appointments to key positions. Abortion is a constitutional right. Planned Parenthood still gets about $300 million in funding a year (although not for abortion), which was also true in the Bush administration. As for contraception, it has been actively promoted by the government since Nixon quite happily signed Title X into law in 1970. Someone opposed to contraception and abortion would be "a fox in the hen house" as a deputy assistant secretary for public affairs for HHS. I don't see how someone from Planned Parenthood can be considered "a fox in the hen house." I know many people deplore the fact that abortion is legal in the United States, but it is legal, and perfectly decent and thoughtful people support it. It is also legal in almost every other western Democracy.As far as I can remember, Catholics have never before been put off by the choice of a deputy assistant secretary for public affairs for HHS. It may be something the Catholic League would want to make into an issue, but that's about it.

Gerelyn: Just to clarify, the hen house is the agencies of HHS that Mr. Sye will be directing the communications of.The issue in my view is not that he has had, or not had, experience dealing with reproductive issues. It is the appearance of pro-choice advocacy within a government agency that deals with these issues. This at a time when that 10 percent Catholic vote is up for grabs. It seems to me a political error on the part of ???? Sebelius? Certainly on the part of Obama, if he even knew about it. Just as we would probably all agree that appointing a pro-life professional (say from the AUL) to the post would have been a mistake. You can be sure that would have caused an uproar (cf. the Komen scandale).It simply reenforces the view that the Obama Administration lacks a big enough political nose for trouble!

Gerelyn: Just to clarify, the hen house is the agencies of HHS that Mr. Sye will be directing the communications of.------- A lame/demeaning analogy. Why don't you call men men and women women and explain in plain English who you think should have gotten the job and why.

HHS isnt a henhouse and PP isnt a fox. Planned Parenthood provides medical services to 1 out of 5 women, typically younger women who otherwise have significant issues obtaining medical care. I used Planned Parenthood when I was a teenager and in my early 20s. Why every medical need women have is considered trivial or illegitimate in comparison to the symbolic need Catholics have to pretend that they actually uphold Church teaching on the issue of contraception and abortion is simply beyond me. This is a low level position (notice the preface deputy) and not a policy position of any kind.---------Agree!! The anti-contraception fanatics should go soak their heads.(I went to Planned Parenthood for a pregnancy test many years ago. The cancelled check for $2.00 is the first item in my son's baby book.)

If you read the revised description of how HHS intends to treat the contraception issue, it looks like the Administration is bending over backwards for Catholics--and got no credit for trying. There are very specific ideas, for example, about how to treat self-funded plans. To the extent that this is an issue about contraception, maybe the administration feels the need to reassure a segment of his base. But I don't know.I do know that I am deeply uncomfortable, in general, with the idea that the only people who can or should be appointed to positions are those who have no views. Or that the only thing that matters is that the person appointed has views that agree with our own. Suppose he put a pro-life feminist Catholic in--are we supposed to root for our "team"? Is the other "team" supposed to complain because one of theirs isn't in? Part of living in a pluralistic society--and running a pluralistic government--is working with people that don't agree with you. And it isn't all about the Catholics. And not all Catholics oppose contraception. At any rate, I too think the Bishops have made clear that they will oppose Obama no matter what he does.

Cathleen: There are only 400 bishop-voters; there are some 60? 70? million lay Catholics, at least some of whom vote; there are millions of pro-life Evangelicals. some of whom vote. This isn't about the bishops; it isn't even about Contraception. It's about Mitt Romney becoming the next president of the United States.Many Americans, of all persuasions and none, are looking for a reason not to cast their ballot for Obama; it is bad politics, it is stupid politics when the Administration hands some of them a reason.

"John Allen of NCR claims that the Catholic vote in the United States divides up as 45% Republican and 45% Democratic, with 10% who might go one way or the other on any given vote. So President Obama will not win the 45% of American Catholics who vote Republican."I agree with you that the great majority of the 45% who are Republican will not vote for the President.The 10% who are independent could be an important segment. States like Ohio and Pennsylvania that are considered swing states in the election have pretty large Catholic populations. Presidential candidates need to piece together coalitions to get to 280 electoral votes. A lot of issues are "zero sum" in this respect: pleasing one group ticks off another. The Keystone pipeline is one such: killing the pipeline excites environmental voters but angers construction unions. Presumably, there are hundreds of possible candidates for the position of HHS deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, most of whom don't have any background or connection with abortion. E.g. perhaps they could have chosen someone from the AMA. Choosing one with strong ties to Planned Parenthood seems like very good news to an important constituency of the Obama Administration. Whether intended or not (and of course it is intended), the selection sends a signal to that group. Simultaneously, it sends a message to pro-life voters who might vote for President Obama (think Commonweal subscribers) that this issue is not one that the Administration takes very seriously.

"The anti-contraception fanatics should go soak their heads."Both of them at once? Or must they take turns? :-)Naturally, contraception is at the top of mind because of the HHS contraception mandate, but it's worth recalling that the issue that has made Planned Parenthood Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of the Religious Right isn't contraception, but abortion. It may not have been very evident on dotCom, but pro-choice advocacy groups have been very disappointed with Obamacare, because the abortion subsidy provisions are not nearly what they hoped for. I would understand this appointment as a statement to pro-choice voters that abortion rights are extremely important to the Obama Administration.

. . . it is stupid politics when the Administration hands some of them a reason.--------The constant efforts to appease/mollify those who hate him have failed. Again and again. Depressing to see a once-liberal magazine urging Obama to join the charade. It's like the CDF's idea that nuns should speak out in support of notions they don't believe in. Why should he pretend there's something wrong with Planned Parenthood? How far should it go? Should Michelle Obama withdraw as Honorary President of the Girl Scouts of America?

I would understand this appointment as a statement to pro-choice voters that abortion rights are extremely important to the Obama Administration.----------So you disagree with Margaret's statement that "it is stupid politics"? (I do, too. Pretending that Catholic women don't have abortions is fatuous.)

IMO way too much overreach on how this helps Romney or how important in itself it is.Big political issue is the ecpnomy and fighting through al lthe spin on that thorny issue.

I would understand this appointment as a statement to pro-choice voters that abortion rights are extremely important to the Obama Administration.Jim,One certainly might have said that about the appointment of Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of HHS, but who has ever paid attention before to the naming of a deputy assistant secretary for public affairs? Does Obama need to send subtle signals regarding where he stands on abortion rights? He is routinely referred to by pro-lifers as "the most pro-abortion president ever." I can't imagine that anyone who would vote for president based on the issue of abortion would have been teetering between Obama and Romney and now will vote for Romney because of this appointment. We all know that Romney has deeply held pro-life convictions . . . now that he is no longer pro-choice.

It is worth noting (again) that President Obama, while an Illinois state senator, championed legislation that would deny medical treatment for a newborn child that had survived an abortion attempt. I should have thought that simple mercy would compel anyone with a heart to assist that poor child (who could be a girl, into the bargain). If Love (God's other Name) is to triumph in this fallen world, then I will give Obama the benefit of the doubt that he didn't sufficiently reflect on what he was about. I hope he has changed his mind at least to that extent.

It is worth noting (again) that President Obama, while an Illinois state senator, championed legislation that would deny medical treatment for a newborn child that had survived an abortion attempt. Bob Schwartz,This is totally, completely, and absolutely, and egregiously false.

It never ceases to amaze me how some pro-lifers will say anything to slander President Obama. The guiding principle seems to be that whether or not it is true, anything one says against Obama in the pro-life cause is justified.

Agree!! The anti-contraception fanatics should go soak their heads.Read this testimonial and then tell me contraception does not lead to abortion.http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/opinion/sunday/having-an-abortion-when...

"Depressing to see a once-liberal magazine urging Obama to join the charade.... Why should he pretend theres something wrong with Planned Parenthood?"Gerelyn, Commonweal is not a prochoice magazine. Never has been. If in your book a magazine needs to be prochoice to be liberal, then your understanding of the magazine's history is simply wrong: Commonweal Catholicism was never Gerelyn liberalism. People here don't object to Planned Parenthood because it provides women with contraceptives or pregnancy tests; they object to it because it offers abortion on demand.Jim is right: there were many Catholics who voted for Obama despite his position on abortion. Maybe he will need their votes again in November, maybe not. What is clear is that many of these Catholics notice an appointment like this, and it bothers them. You believe they are wrong to be bothered. That's fine. But their votes are in play in what will probably be a close election. The votes of prochoice liberals are not in play; they weren't going to vote for Romney, or just not vote, because the Obama HHS didn't hire Planned Parenthood's former media director.

Re Jim Pauwels' two comments this morning: Jim, you are attributing motives. What's your evidence for doing so? If you have no relevant evidence, then how are your attributions not slanderous?

Bernard - I am interpreting the facts as they are known. My evidence is the evidence that has been offered here: a Planned Parenthood executive has parachuted into the middle of HHS. If you have a different interpretation of what that means, I am certainly open to it.I've said nothing slanderous. I've described the pro-choice proclivities of the Obama Administration. I agree with David Nickol's characterization of the Obama Administration. I would guess that it wouldn't view as slanderous being described as pro-choice. I expect it to be waving that banner proudly at the Democratic National Convention next summer, and throughout the presidential campaign. It's simply an apt adjective (or so it seems to me). If a person or an organization presents itself as being pro-choice, I don't think there should be a problem with describing it as pro-choice.

David Nickol:"This is totally, completely, and absolutely, and egregiously false."Is it really? I have a recollection of reading a damning Illinois Senate voting record during the 2008 elections, but I will be gladly proven wrong. Have you done any research?

OK. Here's the brunt of the issue from Factcheck.org., Aug. 28, 2008:Obama and InfanticideThe facts about Obama's votes against 'Born Alive' bills in Illinois. Posted on August 25, 2008 Anti-abortion activists accuse Obama of "supporting infanticide," and the National Right to Life Committee says hes conducted a "four-year effort to cover up his full role in killing legislation to protect born-alive survivors of abortions." Obama says theyre "lying."At issue is Obamas opposition to Illinois legislation in 2001, 2002 and 2003 that would have defined any aborted fetus that showed signs of life as a "born alive infant" entitled to legal protection, even if doctors believe it could not survive.Obama opposed the 2001 and 2002 "born alive" bills as backdoor attacks on a womans legal right to abortion, but he says he would have been "fully in support" of a similar federal bill that President Bush had signed in 2002, because it contained protections for Roe v. Wade.We find that, as the NRLC said in a recent statement, Obama voted in committee against the 2003 state bill that was nearly identical to the federal act he says he would have supported. Both contained identical clauses saying that nothing in the bills could be construed to affect legal rights of an unborn fetus, according to an undisputed summary written immediately after the committees 2003 mark-up session.The article goes on to discuss various interpretations of the facts, but there you are. But you are correct in asserting that he didn't champion legislation. For that, I apologize; my bad for sloppy research.

The HHS deputy assistant secretary position is more than likely what is known as a "Schedule C" position, defined as one that is of a "confidential or policy-determining" nature. Such positions fall in the excepted civil service and are filled under the general authority of 5 CFR 213. The word 'excepted' means that such positions are filled under procedures that constitute an *exception* to normal *competitive* hiring procedures. As a former HR specialist with the Office of Personnel Management (the civil service regulatory agency) as well as with DOD and VA, I see nothing unusual about the Obama administration hiring someone sympathetic to its views. If the Bush administration, for example, had hired a pro-life spokesperson for the HHS deputy assistant secretary position, such an appointment would have been perfectly proper.Matters of "pro-life" and "pro-choice" aside, these appointments are fully in accord with applicable law and regulation. There are conditions established by OPM for their use. Incumbents can be separated from employment at will; they enjoy none of the normal job protections available to career employees. The Schedule C appointment authority simply acknowledges the need for any presidential administration to have people at the highest levels of departments and agencies to develop, administer, and explain policies in furtherance of executive goals and objectives.The brouhaha over this appointment is tantamount to making a mountain out of a molehill.

Our weavings on this issue rehash Obama's and Sebelius positions as well as the legal status of abortion and the attempts at some response to the bishops concerns. I realize that some think them real and others say they are screens. But the essential polint of the argument was about the appointment of this "deputy assistant secretary for public affairs." Goodness, are we checking on all these levels of appointments??? Who preceded him? Why is he/she no longer there? What positions has he held before? Married? Divorced? Gay? Father? What is his mother's maiden name...?Let it go....

I will be the first to admit that I can't name any other deputy assistant secretaries of any other Cabinet agencies. It seems, though, that Politico thought it was noteworthy enough to write a news story about it.

Commonweal Catholicism was never Gerelyn liberalism.--------So true! (We have different tastes in poetry, too.)In my brand of liberalism there's no expectation that a President (or ward boss or precinct captain) will make political appointments with the hope or expectation of appeasing those who will never be appeased. (Should Michelle Obama resign as Honorary President of the Girls Scouts of America?)

Why has there been no similarly loud indignation about the incumbent HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, considering where he came from before his appointment in 2010? Is it just the year that makes the difference?

One explanation for the appointment has not been considered -- maybe the Mr. Sye is highly competent as a media expert and has a deep understanding of the issues involved on both sides of the abortion/contraception issues. Jean can fill us in on this, but isn't a highly competent PR person one who not only knows how to avoid unnecessary controversy but also understands the particular pitfalls of his/her of particular job? If Sye is highly qualified (and I say "if'), then he is the sort who could have helped avoid the original mandate brouhaha in the first place. It's no secret that Obama is pro-abortion. It's no secret that he has compromised in favor of anti-abortion voters at times. His bad political judgment was in appointing politically tone-deaf Sebelius, not Sye.

If Mr. Sye had not been PP's media director, his hiring to the public affairs position at HHS likely would not have been newsworthy to the general public. However, as unwieldy and perhaps diminutive as "deputy assistant secretary" sounds, Mr. Sye is now the # 2 public affairs official at the second largest federal agency. The HHS website lists him as one of the four "key public affairs contacts" at the agency:http://www.hhs.gov/news/contacts/Like Peter Steinfels, I'm "fairly dismayed" at this appointment at this time. It seems likely to me, however, that a political decision was made to hire him to mollify pro-choice organizations and supporters upset about what they perceive as at least partial appeasement of the Catholic hierarchy on the mandate issue. In this election year when everything is vetted politically, I think it's fair to conclude that that Democratic politicos involved in the president's re-election campaign almost certainly consulted their voting maps and crunched the numbers before the final decision was made to bring Mr. Sye onboard at HHS, which has been a lightning rod for pro-life criticism throughout Secretary Sebelius's time at the agency.

Jack Barry: Not sure of your point.Here is the incumbent's bio at HHS (incumbent I guess as of last Thursday?).Deputy Assistant SecretaryChris StenrudDeputy Assistant Secretary for Public AffairsU.S. Department of Health & Human ServicesChris Stenrud was sworn in as deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services on September 7, 2010. In this role, Chris manages media affairs for the department, including press relations and online outreach. He also oversees communications for HHS agencies involved in public health including the FDA, CDC, NIH and the Public Health Service. He previously served as a special assistant for communications in HHS public affairs during the Clinton Administration.Chris rejoined HHS from Kaiser Permanente, where he served as director of health policy communications and before that, communications director for the office of the CEO. At Kaiser, Chris managed all external and internal communication activities involving CEO George Halvorson, who leads the organizations health plan and hospital system covering 8.5 million lives. Chris oversaw several major communications projects including the roll out of Georges two most recent books, Health Care Will Not Reform Itself and Health Care Reform Now! Chris also spent time on Capitol Hill as staff director for the Democratic Communications Committee in the U.S. Senate under Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD). In the Senate, Chris coordinated message and outreach efforts for Senate Democrats on issues ranging from drug re-importation to implementation of the 9/11-commission report.Outside of government, Chris has served in senior positions with several nationally-recognized public relations agencies including Golin Harris, GMMB and GYMR. Additionally, Chris has worked on several statewide and national political campaigns including Clinton/Gore 92 & 96 and Boxer for Senate 98.Chris earned his undergraduate degree from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.

Joseph J. --While the PR position is not protected by the usual Civil Service rules, I don't think it is de facto *not* a policy making position. Because presidents *must* compromise, and because a good PR person knows the probable PR effects of a politician's decision, the PR person's opinions must at times be a factor in a president's decision-making processes. For instance, if a mayor's PR chief tells him that support of a proposed expressway will cause the city's newspaper to stop supporting the mayor , the mayor will, if he has any political sense, take that into account when making his decision about the expressway.So I don't think it is true that Sye would have no policy input, though we cannot assume that Sye would always recommend going along with Planned Parenthood. He might advise that politically the wise thing to do is to go along with the pro-lifers, even though he disagrees with the pro-lifers.

Prof. Kaveny wrote: "Part of living in a pluralistic societyand running a pluralistic governmentis working with people that dont agree with you."Isn't that precisely the point of some of the "dismay" being expressed here? Why wouldn't Pres. Obama appoint someone, say, of a pro-life pursuasion? Wouldn't have they truly expressed a more pluralistic, "purple" view of our society? Wouldn't it have been refreshingly pluralistic to look for someone NOT from an advocacy organization closely linked with the Democratic Party and abortion-on-demand?

Gerelyn, in your brand of liberalism the list of people with whom you disagree seems to be exactly the same as the list of people "who will never be appeased." That's awfully neat. Unless you do not want prolifers to vote for Obama -- and are sure he can win re-election without any of their votes -- you should reconsider the political wisdom of an appointment that is bound to alienate them, at least a little. I'm prolife, and I confess this decision doesn't bother or surprise me much. It's unlikely to determine my vote in November. But these things are cumulative, and the straw that breaks the camel's back will depend on the camel. What is clear is that each time something like this happens it's harder to describe it as a one-off rather than as part of a larger pattern that, however predictable, can only make it harder for prolifers to vote for the president. Again, it is inconceivable that a prochoice liberal would decide not to vote for the president because he failed to appoint a former Planned Parenthood official to this position. There was a political downside to doing this, and no political downside to not doing it. Obviously such staffing decisions are about more than electoral politics -- and thank goodness for that -- but, considered purely as political matter, this was not smart.

Matthew, Do I "want prolifers to vote for Obama"?I don't know what a prolifer is. I know there are people who pat themselves on the back while claiming to be that and excoriate others for being prodeathers, but I also know that prolifers, like prodeathers, use contraception, get abortions ("on demand"), and vote for the woman or man they like best, regardless of that person's views of the Girls Scouts, Planned Parenthood, etc.Do I want the President to appoint those who oppose him to positions in his administration?No. That's not the way the game is played. (To quote/paraphrase the prolife -- now -- candidate, Mitt Romney.)

"and are sure he can win re-election without any of their votes"Yes, he can and yes he will. Ther are only three important issues for the upcoming elections. These are:1. the economy, 2. the economy, and 3. the economy. Birth control, abortion, etc., are not issues at all. Nobody cares. If the economy is improving, Obama will win re-election. If the economy stagnates or worsens, then Romney will win. In recent history, state antiabortion measures have been placed on the ballots in very pro-life states: South Dakota (twice) and Mississippi. Those all lost. The prolife voters make a lot of noise but in the privacy fo the ballot box, they don't vote that way. They vote their pocketbook like the majority of voters. Until pro-lie voters demostate that they can achive success on a state antiabortion measure in their own backyard, they are not a significant political force. Obama knows that. There is nothing he can do to earn their votes that he isn't already doing. The particular issue of the deputy PR director of HHS is utterly nonsignificant. Not a single electoral college vote will change as a result of the appointment. There are a number of issues that Obama is not addressing. These include such important constituency issues as gay rights, relations with Israel and immigration.Those constituencies and the 10% undecided Catholic vote will vote for their pocketbooks, not on any other pet issue. It's the economy.

"After burying the first old hen, the rooster would marry a young pullet to cook and clean and wash and sew for the first brood while hatching a second."My Irish gggrandfather did exactly that - sans hatching a second brood of chicks. He lived with the first wife for 21 years and sired 7. He lived with the second one (22 years his junior) for 37 years and they both died within a month of each other.Apropos absolutely nothing, I'll admit.

"Read this testimonial and then tell me contraception does not lead to abortion."Even an inexperienced male such as I knows that (1) successful contraception results in (2) no need for abortion.

"It simply reenforces the view that the Obama Administration lacks a big enough political nose for trouble!"Or that the official Catholic proboscis is particularly attuned to its own brand of quasi and faux trouble with dealing with this President.

"Or that the official Catholic proboscis is particularly attuned to its own brand of quasi and faux trouble with dealing with this President."Because losing a religious liberty case at the Supreme Court 9-0, at which oral argument even its own former Solicitor General expressed befuddled astonishment at the Administration's interpretation of the First Amendment, is simply a "faux" misunderstanding of "official" Catholics' own genesis. Or maybe it's "quasi"? (Just to take one example).

Ann, I fully agree with your comments @ 2:34 pm. Schedule C positions, according to the Office of Personnel Management (i.e., the former U.S. Civil Service Commission until Congress made the name and other changes effective 1/1/79), are "excepted from the competitive service by the President, or by the Director, Office of Personnel Management, because of the confidential or policy-determining nature of the position duties."

Some additional information should be available at http://www.opm.gov/transition/trans20r-ch5.htm ("Transition to a New Presidential Administration: Appointees in the Excepted Service").For anybody in academe, it's possible you have taught or otherwise interacted with students occupying so-called "Schedule B" positions, which are used by federal departments and agencies, for example, to employ co-op students among others.Some general background on these *excepted service* authorities should be available at http://www.opm.gov/Strategic_Management_of_Human_Capital/fhfrc/FLX05020.asp ("Excepted Service Appointing Authorities").In short, federal civil service law and regulations recognize the simple fact that it's not always practicable to use regular merit system processes in hiring.

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About the Author

Peter Steinfels, co-founder of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture and a former editor of Commonweal, is the author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.