Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., introduced legislation April 1 that would reduce the salary of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci to $0 until a new director of the agency is confirmed by the Senate.
Besides the essentially nonexistent chance of such a bill, titled the Fire Fauci Act, passing either chamber of Congress, the legislation also fundamentally misunderstands the reality of Fauci’s position in the government and the intricacies of federal civilian employment.
First, the director of the NIAID, a subcomponent of the National Institutes of Health, is not a Senate-confirmed position, meaning that, even were Fauci to be fired, the next person to take up that position would receive no votes in Congress.
In fact, the position is not even listed in the Plum Book, a compilation prepared every four years by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and House Committee on Government Reform that lists all civil service positions in the government that may be subject to noncompetitive appointment.
Instead, Fauci is listed as an RF employee, according to data collected by FederalPay.org, which is designated as a “special consultant” position under Title 42 of U.S. Code.
Such positions fall under the excepted service category of federal employment, meaning that those employees may be hired without regard for normal civil service laws that stipulate hiring and compensation requirements.
But those employees are still entitled to termination and appeals protections expanded by the Civil Service Due Process Amendments of 1990, meaning that Fauci would be entitled to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board if there was evidence that his firing was not based in performance or misconduct problems. A reduction in pay would also trigger such protections.
Considering that Fauci has a long history of exemplary work at the agency, robust support from his boss NIH Director Francis Collins and consistently favorable public opinion of his work during the pandemic, the agency would be hard-pressed to prove his performance was unacceptable.
The end result is that any government official would find it near impossible to fire Fauci or reduce his salary without compelling evidence of poor performance or conduct.
Greene is correct that Fauci is the highest paid federal employee at $434,312 per year — out-earning even the president — but such high salaries are the purpose of the RF appointment authority.
Medical experts are considered high-value personnel that are in demand across the public and private sectors. In order for employees to earn more than the usual $275,000 pay cap for such positions, the secretary of the agency must issue an approval based on the employee’s qualifications and value to the agency.
And Fauci has established himself as a high-value employee.
Even outside of his public fame in spearheading much of the U.S. COVID-19 response, Fauci is the 35th most-cited living researcher based on Google Scholar. He was the architect of the U.S. HIV/AIDS relief program, has made significant contributions to the field of immunology and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in 2008.
Green’s proposed legislation highlights the intended purpose of federal employment law in the first place: to protect career employees from the tides of political opinion or motivation.
Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.