President Trump said Wednesday that he does not plan to fill many of the vacancies left by departing political appointees in his administration, arguing the federal government could survive without some of the staff positions currently awaiting appointees.
"We don't need so many people coming to work," Trump told the Washington Examiner in an interview at the White House Wednesday. "When they say about putting people in, there are so many jobs in Washington, we don't want so many jobs. You don't need all of those people."
The White House has faced questions about its slow pace of nominating people to fill the hundreds of open positions across the government. Administration officials have countered that Senate Democrats are to blame for stonewalling the nominees who have made it into committees.
During the first month of Trump's presidency, for example, the administration managed to fill just 14 of the 1,212 positions that require Senate confirmation.
Trump said he has reviewed staffing levels and concluded that, ultimately, he will not fill all of the vacant jobs, citing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's proposed reorganization of his department as an example for the rest of the government.
"Even me, I look at staffing, and I look at the numbers of people, and many of the people that they complain don't have, you know, where certain positions aren't filled, in many cases you don't need those positions to be filled," Trump said. "You know, a good example is Rex over at State, got so many people, and he likes to do things himself, and he likes to take meetings himself, he doesn't necessarily need the kind of numbers that you're talking about."
Trump imposed a federal hiring freeze shortly after Inauguration Day but has since lifted it.
The president said he would reinstate the freeze "at the right time."
"We don't want to fill all of the vacancies, we won't fill all of the vacancies," Trump said. "We don't need so many of these people."
The president recounted Democrats' efforts to block many members of his Cabinet in the Senate. While a few, such as Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, garnered some bipartisan support, most inspired pushback from Democratic lawmakers who attempted to slow the confirmation process through procedural means.
"It's also because of the total obstruction of having people going in. It's very, very sad to see. You'd think the Democrats would help because they want to see this, you know, move along nicely, but you've seen how long it took to get your various Cabinet positions filled," Trump said. "It's a record, it was a record. So they have one power, and that's the power to obstruct, and they're using it to the maximum, whether it's a Supreme Court judge or whether it's Cabinet members or whether it's people to fill seats."