Senate Confirmation Run Amok

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I’m definitely glad the United States Senate deigned to confirm this boatload of nominees today, but reading the list really makes you wonder why these posts require Senate confirmation in the first place. Here’s a few:

— Benjamin B. Tucker, of New York, to be Deputy Director for State, Local, and Tribal Affairs, Office of National Drug Control Policy.

— Jim R. Esquea, of New York, to be an Assistant Secretary for Legislation, Department of Health and Human Services.

— David T. Matsuda, of the District of Columbia, to be Administrator of the Maritime Administration.

— Lana Pollack, of Michigan, to be a Commissioner on the part of the United States on the International Joint Commission, United States and Canada.

— James L. Taylor, of Virginia, to be Chief Financial Officer, Department of Labor.

It seems to me that there are two categories of problems here. On the one hand, a job like Esquea’s just shouldn’t be subject to Senate confirmation. The President and the Secretary of HHS should have whoever running their legislative shop that they want. There’s no legitimate public interest in second-guessing the top leadership on this. On the flipside, it seems to me that for a lot of this other stuff we should be relying more on civil servants. There’s no need for America to suddenly leap to the opposite end of the spectrum in this regard and become the U.K. or France, but defenders of America’s appointees-everywhere model often seem driven by sentimentality rather than the evidence that administration by civil servants works better. Liberals and conservatives alike, however, both need to pay much more attention to the question of how to improve the quality of the regulatory agencies and public services that we’re currently running.