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Our Capitol Hill Insider Elizabeth Letchworth gives us the backstory to S. 679: Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011, a proposal to give the President more power to make appointments without Senate approval. (See my post below: President Obama wants sole power to appoint people). Elizabeth appears on The ANDREA SHEA KING SHOW every Wednesday night to pull back the curtains encircling the DC beltway.
According to a CRS (Congressional Research Service) report from 2003, routine nominations in any given Congress number between 50,000 and 100,000. According to the Senate Rules committee, the number of nominations that require a true vetting process, FBI reports etc… is about 1409, vs 286 in the Kennedy administration
The bill would reclassify about 200 non-political, non-senior positions so as to not require Senate confirmation. The Congress can control an out of control POTUS on the nomination process by the power of the purse. In other words, if POTUS loads up an agency or department with too many pols or CZARS that aren’t confirmed by the Senate, then Congress can zero fund those positions or get rid of them all together by legislation.
This bill seems to address streamlining the confirmation process more than ceding power to POTUS since 200 nominations is a small number given the number of nominations that are confirmed in the Senate. Also, the Senate now has an unprecedented ability to cripple an agency by refusing to confirm the top nominations. This leaves an agency to run with lower level people that fly under the radar as to any political ramifications. This allows the Executive branch to avoid the checks and balances that is needed and this is not how our founders envisioned our three-pronged government.
Since 1781 we operated under a system known as the Articles of Confederation. Congress had one chamber and every state had one vote. There was no President. By 1787, it was clear our government wasn’t functioning, so our Constitution emerged. It created our three branches with checks and balances. No part of our government can accrue too much power because the power is offset somewhere else. The House was created to move legislation, the Senate was built to slow things down. The Senate confirmation process is part of that slowing down process. However, if they are bogged down by too many non-senior nominations to process then they will fail in other areas.
Streamlining the confirmation process and reclassifying some of the positions created by legislation over the last 20 years seems like a good idea to me.
I hope this has been helpful,
The Honorable Elizabeth B. Letchworth
U.S. Senate Secretary for the Majority/Minority-retired
Senior Legislative Advisor Covington & Burling, LLC
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