Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dogs, Not Barking

Here's a special executive branch nominations edition of "Dogs, Not Barking." A quick search found pretty much zilch news about any of these: that's a big story! On the good side, at least the White House has finally updated their nominations page, at least through two weeks ago. On the bad side,

1. Secretary of Commerce: a month ago, Penny Pritzker was reported to be the candidate for this opening, which has existed since June. Since then, nothing much. Can Barack Obama make it a full year without nominating anyone for this cabinet post?

2. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced in January he would leave when his successor was confirmed. Good luck with that! Two months plus later, no nominee, let alone confirmation.

3. United States Trade Representative is a cabinet-level post. This one is vacant since January.

4. Then there's the Small Business Administration. Outgoing administrator Karen Mills is apparently staying on until someone is in place...Good luck with that! She resigned two months ago;

5. I have no idea what's happening with subcabinet executive branch nominations. I'm guessing it's nothing good; there certainly haven't been a lot of subcabinet nominations this year, and I'm guessing that plenty of people below the cabinet level have moved on. Hey, reporters: there's probably a story here! In fact, there are probably lots of stories here!

In the meantime, I'll end with the question: what's the worst unfilled spot? I know I have some readers who follow these things closely, either government-wide or for specific agencies or issue areas -- where has the administration failed to nominate anyone for the longest, or for an extended period for a key position?


  1. Regarding subcabinet nominations, Josh Rogin at "Foreign Policy" is on the case for the State Department.

  2. What's the precedent for this? I remember some fairly weak obstruction to GWB's court nominations, but it generally seems like another example of the profitability of nihilism by the GOP. Obama is too passive, but it's unclear to me that making it a bigger issue would translate to movement. It gets very wonkish, very quickly. And if there's anything the American people and congressional leaders love is when issues get wonkish.

  3. The directorships of the FHFA and ATF are long-standing vacancies, and more important than the Secretary of Commerce. I think that's the answer I like best, if not for this question then probably for some slight variant.

  4. Is it possible there are hidden benefits to not nominating anybody and having career civil servants running the place?

  5. In the short term the delay filling posts on the Fed were the worst. A more dovish Fed as would likely have been the case with prompter nominees could have gotten the economy out of the hangover from the financial crisis quicker.

    In the long term the lack of attention to Federal court vacancies could be disastrous.

    Secretary of Commerce etc.? Probably not very important all things considered.

  6. Maybe this reflects Obama's leadership style? Maybe he wants to micromanage everything with his staff that aren't appointments?


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