Senate Panel Advances TikTok Ban for Feds, More Transparency on Agency Leaders


Top federal officials would see positions and salaries posted monthly.

A Senate committee on Wednesday passed legislation to make public a list of senior executives and political appointees in government, with advocates saying it will bring new transparency to federal agency leadership. 

The 2020 Periodically Listing Updates to Management (PLUM) Act seeks to model and repurpose the Plum Book, a listing published every four years of more than 9,000 government positions subject to noncompetitive appointment. The bill, approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday, would require the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration to maintain the list on a publicly available site with monthly updates displaying the names of individuals holding each position. The posting would include Senate-confirmed presidentially appointed positions, other appointees and non-career members of the Senior Executive Service. 

The online publication would also include GS-14s and above appointed through non-competitive means due to the “policy-determining nature of the position duties.” OPM’s website would include the individuals’ agency, position, pay system, salary and other information, including whether the position is vacant. 

“It’s pretty simple: the American people deserve to know who is serving at the highest levels of our government,” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who introduced the measure. “The individuals who fill these positions are often making consequential decisions that affect the lives of millions, and it is just common sense that the public should be able to more easily find out who the president—in any administration—has appointed to make those decisions.”

The bill would require OPM to establish an easily searchable website for the information and, in conjunction with the White House’s Presidential Personnel Office, ensure the accuracy of information twice per year. Currently, the Plum Book is published only every four years after each presidential election. 

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, has introduced companion legislation. While the Senate committee approved the bill by voice vote, several Republicans noted their opposition to it for the record. 

The panel also approved a measure that would ban federal employees from accessing the social media application TikTok on any government-issued device. The Trump administration has sought to crack down on the platform, which is owned by a Chinese company, over concerns it leaves American users’ data vulnerable. State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo said earlier this month the administration was considering a nationwide TikTok ban. 

The 2020 No TikTok on Government Devices Act, introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., would prevent any federal government employees from accessing the app on a government-issued device, with exceptions for those engaged in cybersecurity research. 

“TikTok is owned by a Chinese company that includes Chinese Communist Party members on its board, and it is required by law to share user data with Beijing,” Hawley said when he introduced the measure. “As many of our federal agencies have already recognized, TikTok is a major security risk to the United States, and it has no place on government devices."