Last week Explainer posed this and a few related questions–who controls the vacation time, sick leave, or personal leave of the president, vice president, and Cabinet officers?–to Slate readers here because Explainer couldn’t get answers to these questions from either the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) or the White House press office (which is still checking into it as of this writing). Thanks to all of you who so quickly and succinctly provided the answers. So 1) How much vacation, etc., do these people get? And 2) What are the regulations that govern it?
1) As much as they want. 2) There aren’t regulations; there are the absence of regulations.
As far as the president and vice president are concerned, these are elective offices (more or less) and there is a simple, if long-term, personnel procedure available to the American people for expressing disapproval of the work habits of those occupying the offices: Don’t re-elect them. As many readers pointed out, the Constitution lays out the president’s duties, and it would raise questions of the separation of powers for Congress to enact laws governing the president’s work hours. As for whether the vice president is spending enough time on the job, there’s constitutionally not too much to the job except to break tie votes in the Senate and be a heart-bypass away from the presidency. Cabinet officers, on the other hand, serve at the pleasure of the president. If Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill decided he wanted to stop coming to the office and instead spend all his time counting his Alcoa stock options (and it would take all his time), the president might decide to can him, but no one at OPM would have the authority to discipline him. Cabinet officers, along with all other presidential appointees, are exempt from the civil service rules on hiring, firing, vacation, and sick leave which apply to the vast majority of federal employees as this OPM site explains.
For more on whom the president appoints, click here.
For more on what the president and vice president get paid, click here.
Explainer thanks the many readers who answered these questions.
Photograph of Dick Cheney on the Slate Table of Contents by Win McNamee/Reuters.