America’s Weird Balance of Power

Carl Hulse writes up a sensible bipartisan proposal to slightly pare back the number of minor executive branch officials who require senate confirmation. The most telling part is this:

Looking at the list of assistant secretaries, department directors, chief financial officers and advisory board members who would be removed from the Senate docket, some conservatives see an effort to give the White House carte blanche to extend bureaucratic sprawl. The change would also limit the leverage that lawmakers have over the administration by reducing the number of appointments they could block in order to win concessions or other considerations.

Writing for the conservative Heritage Foundation, David S. Addington, who served as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, urged defeat of the bill, saying the drafters of the Constitution “did not give the president the kingly power to appoint the senior officers of the government by himself.”

Yes, that David Addington and that Dick Cheney. This highlights precisely what’s so absurd about the practical operation of America’s constitution. The president has vast power to unilaterally instigate a small war, but heaven forbid he choose his own Assistant Secretary of Commerce! The issue here isn’t really what the drafters of the Constitution did or didn’t do so much as it is what Congress has done over the years, namely insist on inserting itself into the routine operation of government while abdicating responsibility for national security policy. But it doesn’t make a ton of sense.