06/29/11 12:31 PM ET-
The Senate on Wednesday cleared legislation by a vote of 79-20 that would improve efficiency in the upper chamber’s process of confirming minor executive nominees.
"This bipartisan bill and resolution ... will effectively change the way the Senate does business,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the moments leading up to the vote. “For the good of our democracy, the Senate must become more efficient.”
Instead it would allow some nominees to be dealt with on the committee level, a measure that is expected to save hundreds of hours of the Senate’s time.
But Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who opposed the bill, said the Senate was dealing with a symptom of the problem of rapidly expanding government, rather than the root cause.
“We're dealing with symptoms of a much deeper problem,” said DeMint. “The reason we have gone from a few hundred confirmations ... to thousands today are because of the incredible exponential growth of the federal government.
“Rather than to look at this behemoth that we have created, we are looking to make it somewhat less accountable,” said DeMint.
But Schumer did not seem troubled by the growth in executive scope and power.
“The rapid growth of the executive branch has put unanticipated burdens on the Senate whose job it is to confirm the president’s appointees,” Schumer said. “But there is nothing wrong with the Senate doing a little prioritizing of its pending business.”
Prior to the passage of the bill, the Senate also debated a series of amendments to determine which nominees would still require full Senate confirmation.
The Senate also defeated two DeMint amendments. One would have enhanced accountability and transparency among various executive agencies and another would have stripped the International Monetary Fund of some U.S. funding.
Source: The Hill
U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 112th Congress - 1st Session
as compiled through Senate LIS by the Senate Bill Clerk under the direction of the Secretary of the SenateVote Summary
|Question: On Passage of the Bill (S. 679 as Amended )|
|Vote Number:||101||Vote Date:||June 29, 2011, 11:53 AM|
|Required For Majority:||3/5||Vote Result:||Bill Passed|
|Measure Number:||S. 679 (Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 )|
|Measure Title:||A bill to reduce the number of executive positions subject to Senate confirmation.|
Grouped By Vote Position
|Lee (R-UT) |
|Not Voting - 1|
Speed Up Nominations and Confirmations, but Do Not Enact S. 679On March 30, 2011, Senator Charles Schumer (D–NY) with 15 cosponsors, including the Senate Majority and Republican Leaders, as well as six other Democratic Senators, six other Republican Senators, and an Independent Senator, introduced in the Senate the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 (S. 679). The bill was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
The bill reduces the number of presidential appointments that require the consent of the Senate and establishes within the executive branch a Working Group on Streamlining Paperwork for Executive Nominations. Individuals nominated to senior executive offices suffer slow and detailed background investigations and mounds of duplicative paperwork before a President sends their nominations to the Senate. After nomination, many nominees suffer time-consuming inaction or time-consuming and excruciating action as the Senate proceeds (or does not) with consideration of the nomination. The sponsors of S. 679 have identified a valid problem, but proposed the wrong solution. Congress should not enact S. 679.
The Senate Should Preserve, But Speed Up, Its Role in Senior Presidential Appointments
When the delegates of the states gathered in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 and wrote the Constitution, they distributed the powers of the federal government among two Houses of Congress, a President, and a judiciary, and required in many cases that two of them work together to exercise a particular constitutional power. That separation of powers protects the liberties of the American people by preventing any one officer of the government from aggregating too much power.
The Framers of the Constitution did not give the President the kingly power to appoint the senior officers of the government by himself. Instead, they allowed the President to name an individual for a senior office, but then required the President to obtain the Senate’s consent before appointing the individual to office. Thus, they required the cooperation of the President and the Senate to put someone in high office.
Many of the Framers had practical experience with government and recognized that not every office would be of sufficient authority and consequence as to merit the attention of both the President and the Senate to an appointment to the office. Therefore, they provided a means by which the Congress by law could decide which of the lesser offices of government could be filled by the President alone, a court, or a department head.
The Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution provides that the President:
… shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.The Appointments Clause is “among the significant structural safeguards of the constitutional scheme” and “is a bulwark against one branch aggrandizing its power at the expense of another branch.”
For principal officers of the United States, such as the heads of executive departments, the President nominates an individual for the office, the Senate consents (or not), and after the Senate consents the President appoints the individual to the office. The same three-step process applies in appointing the inferior officers, unless Congress by law vests the appointment of an inferior officer in the President alone, in a court of law, or in the head of a department. If enacted, S. 679 would vest in the President alone the appointments to several hundred inferior offices in executive agencies that now require Senate consent.
The Congress should not decide by law to relinquish the Senate role in filling a federal office and leave filling the office to the President alone, unless the Congress concludes for each such office that the Senate’s checking influence on the President is of no value because the office is of little or no authority or consequence. Generally, each time Congress by law removes the Senate from a role in the appointment to a federal office, the institutional influence of the Senate diminishes by a marginal amount and the influence of a President increases by a marginal amount. If the office is of little or no authority or consequence, the shift in influence may be immaterial, but if the office wields power that affects the American people, the Congress should not abdicate the Senate checking function.
It does not appear that the sponsors of S. 679 have determined that each of the offices the bill converts from appointments made by the President with Senate consent to appointments made by the President alone is an office of little or no authority or consequence. Instead, it appears that the principal sponsors simply concluded that the Senate is too slow in performing its duty to consider and consent (or not) to presidential nominations and hope to accelerate the Senate process by simply reducing the number of such nominations the President must make.
The Congress should not reduce the number of Senate-confirmed appointments as a means of dealing with its cumbersome and inefficient internal process for considering nominations. Doing so gives away Senate influence over a number of significant appointments, does nothing to improve the Senate process, and still leaves nominees whose offices require nominations mired in the Senate process. The proper solution to the problem of a slow Senate is to speed up the Senate rather than to diminish the role of the Senate. The Senate should look inward and streamline its internal procedures for considering all nominations. The proper solution also is the faster one, as the Senate can accomplish the solution by acting on its own in the exercise of its power to make Senate rules, while S. 679 requires approval by both Houses of Congress.
Story Continued: The Heritage Foundation
The Bill just passed the Senate and will be sent to the House. Please contact your Congressman and tell them to vote NO for
|S. 679 (Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 )|