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Monday, April 25, 2011

Senate Leaders Agree on Plan to Streamline the Confirmation of Executive Branch Nominees

Yesterday's New York Times reported on bipartisan legislation that would cut the number of executive branch positions requiring Senate confirmation votes. The proposal would eliminate Senate review for about 200 mid-level executive branch positions.

The bill, S. 697, was introduced by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and is cosponsored by seven Republicans and seven Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The bill's supporters say "they want to ease what they call an arduous chore for mid-level nominees trying to navigate the Senate in a supercharged partisan era."

When President John F. Kennedy took office in 1961, there were about 280 confirmable posts in the executive branch; today, that number is over 1,400. This legislation is intended to reverse that explosion, making space on the Senate's calendar for other business, such as judicial confirmations and legislation.

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), a strong supporter of the proposal, said that "we are losing very good people because the process has become so onerous, so lengthy and so duplicative... Why should there be a full F.B.I background check back to age 18 for an individual serving on a part-time board?"

Despite the bill's strong bipartisan support, it does have some detractors. David S. Addington said that this bill would give President Obama "kingly power" to appoint mid-level executive staff. Addington, who as chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney championed policies that sought to maximize executive power, is apparently wary of executive power now that George W. Bush is no longer president.

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