The RP and his fellow No Labels co-founder Mark McKinnon (George W. Bush’s campaign manager) offer the following thoughts on the presidential appointment process:
Over a year after the 2008 financial crisis, the Treasury Department still didn’t have an assistant secretary for financial markets. In the middle of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there was no Secretary of the Army. And on 9/11, the Bush administration still didn’t have a full national security team in place.
These are the consequences of a broken presidential appointments process. In recent years, the Senate is taking more time to confirm more people, and the problem is especially glaring at the beginning of new administrations. The number of positions requiring Senate confirmation has grown from 280 to 1,400 over the past 50 years, while the average length of time for confirmation has grown from two-and-a-half months to more than 10.
The confirmation process has developed into an embarrassing charade, with highly qualified nominees often held up for petty or purely partisan reasons.
No matter who the next president is, we need a smarter, more efficient system to ensure he can staff his administration with the best people in a timely fashion. No Labels has a three-part solution.
1. Reduce the number of appointees subject to Senate confirmation: The Senate’s “Advice and Consent” on nominations is an important check on presidential power, but it’s not needed for every mid-level official and presidential commission. We should give new presidents more authority to fill less urgent positions and let the Senate focus on the most important nominees who deal with more pressing matters. Encouragingly, a bipartisan bill to do just that has already passed the Senate and awaits action in the House.
2. Identify a “slate that can’t wait” of critical nominees for expedited confirmation: Within a few days of the election, the president should be prepared to name a group of nominees for especially crucial positions, who would be subject to both speedier background checks and Senate review and confirmation.
3. Up or down vote on presidential appointments: All presidential nominations should be confirmed or rejected within 90 days of the nomination being received by the Senate. This time frame includes both committee and floor action. If a nominee’s name is not confirmed or rejected within 90 days, the nominee would be confirmed by default.
Our next president will have plenty of problems to deal with – and worrying about whether he can hire good people should not be one of them. It’s time to fix the presidential appointment process and fix it now.