The first session of the 83rd Congress of the United States began on January 3, 1953 and ended on August 3, 1953. During that time Congress considered 1,539 nominations for non-postal civilian jobs of whom 1,371 were confirmed, 31 were withdrawn, and 53 were left pending. Today, over a year after Barack Obama’s inauguration, I count over 200 unconfirmed nominees.
The culprit is a combination of proliferating posts and an increasingly dysfunctional atmosphere on Capitol Hill. The easiest solution is to first have less reliance on political appointees in general, and more reliance on civil servants. The current Senior Executive Service system works well and could be expanded, perhaps reducing the need for the president to nominate things like an Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General of the United States and Foreign Commercial Service, International Trade Administration. The second step would be to reduce the number of political appointments on whom the Senate gets to weigh in. If the President wants to give Laura Kennedy the rank of ambassador while she attends the Conference on Disarmament, do we really need to know what Jon Cornyn thinks about the decision? If Obama and Kathleen Sebelius think Jim Esquea would do a good job as Assistant Secretary for Legislation at HHS, shouldn’t they just be able to get their way?
I think people will look back 50 or 100 years from now and find it very strange that the in 2010 the world’s leading power attempted to administer itself in this manner.