White House spokesman Sean Spicer denounced “ramspecking” at a press briefing Tuesday, arguing that members of the Obama Administration had burrowed into the government to thwart President Trump’s agenda.
“I think there are people that burrow into the government after an Administration, this is going back to the beginning of time. They used to call it ‘ramspecking,'” he said. “This has been going on since the country came to be.”
When no one caught the reference, Spicer suggested they “Google it.”
The term comes from a now-expired law. Passed in 1940, the Ramspeck Act was designed to place longtime Congressional appointees in the executive branch if they lost their jobs for non-performance related reasons, such as when a lawmaker died in the middle of a term.
During the transition from the George H.W. Bush administration to Bill Clinton administration in late 1992 and early 1993, the United States Office of Personnel Management investigated several appointments that were made under the law, and determined there were two instances where appointments were made incorrectly. Nearly two years later, in November 1994, the OPM discovered another improper appointment in the Department of Health and Human Services.
The law was repealed in 1995, and officially expired in 1997.
If you take Spicer’s advice and Google the term, the first link that comes up is from a 1998 New Yorker article about the rhetoric of the Clinton sex scandal, and refers to the Ramspeck Act, which had recently expired:
“Burrowing in is what happens when a political appointee is quietly moved into a job that is normally a civil-service slot and is thereby protected from the purge that accompanies a transfer of power. It’s an excellent way for a party that has just lost control of the White House to populate the bureaucracy with potential walking time bombs. On Capitol Hill, the analogous process has been known as “ramspecking,” in honor of the Ramspeck Act of 1940, a just-expired law that allowed Presidents to put lame-duck congressional staffers in agency jobs.”