Monday, April 25, 2011

Exec Branch Appointments, Again

The NYT has a useful update on the plan to remove about 200 executive branch appointees from the Senate confirmation process. As I've said before, I'm ambivalent about this; in general I support Senate oversight of executive branch agencies through the confirmation process, but I have no problem with removing some of the more obscure or junior positions from that process.

Mostly -- and remember, I like Congress for the most part -- I found the two quotes from Republican Senators who support this reform really pathetic:

“We are losing very good people because the process has become so onerous, so lengthy and so duplicative,” said Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican and a lead advocate of the bill. “Why should there be a full F.B.I background check back to age 18 for an individual serving on a part-time board?”
“We drag some unsuspecting citizen through this gauntlet of investigations and questioning,” said Mr. Alexander, who has dubbed the process the innocent-until-nominated syndrome. “They are very fortunate if they get all the way through without being made to appear a criminal.”
Guess what, Senators Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander: it's not actually in the Constitution that you have to run every appointee through a full FBI check and treat them like criminals! 

The real solution isn't to stop confirming them; it's to ratchet the process way down, by returning to the presumption that the president should get the people of his choice. That still would allow for Senators to use the process to secure policy commitments, but put an end to the pointless intense personal scrutiny of every selection. The solution? Return to majority confirmation of executive branch nominees, keep holds, but only for specific policy disputes, and reform the process at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to radically reduce vetting. Do that, and the Senate will have plenty of capacity for processing everyone, whether they trim the list a bit or not.

1 comment:

  1. Although I agree that the problem lies in the process and not the premise, when the premise so easily leads to process abuse you have to question what you're doing. Personally, I am OK with eliminating Senate confirmation of the Second Adjutant to the Undersecretary of Agriculture if it moves the rest of the process forward more swiftly. Admittedly, that's one big "if."


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