April 12, 2011
By Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
Of course not. Yes, the Senate has an important role to fill, but interminable and pointless delays have become the norm. They have bedeviled both Republican and Democratic presidents in recent years, and they need to stop. (Senators, for their part, point out that presidents take too long to consider people and make nominations.)
So it should be good news that Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, has introduced the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011, or S. 679. It has bipartisan support, too; Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, have signed on. Finally, something all can agree on, right?
Not exactly. S. 679, unfortunately, is the wrong solution.
The most sensible remedy is to speed up the nomination and confirmation processes, which have become ridiculously complicated. Each nominee must fill out different sets of nonstandardized questionnaires, which then go through a drawn-out FBI background investigation. Other government offices pore over these questionnaires for any possible ethical concerns about the relationships or finances of the various appointees.
Yes, presidential appointees should be checked for problems. We must ensure that candidates for important positions are qualified and trustworthy. But surely the president can streamline the executive branch process, which over time has become needlessly burdensome and inefficient. It is not the responsibility of Congress to tell the president how to choose his nominees; he can fix the process on his own.
The Senate, meanwhile, needs to make its own process swifter. S. 679 does it the wrong way. It eliminates the Senate from considering nominations to a number of important offices. That’s a problem.
Sure, doing so would make the process move more quickly, but only by violating the intent of the Founding Fathers. Our Constitution, after all, is designed primarily as a framework for ensuring that no one branch accumulates too much power.
We see the Founders’ wisdom in how they handled presidential appointees to high office. It’s the president’s privilege to nominate the people he wants to fill the various important posts and ensure that government functions smoothly. However, he’s not a king. So the Senate must review and approve the people he wants to fill those highly important posts.
S. 679, however, shifts a portion of this important responsibility away from Congress. It “solves” the problem by punting. It’s one thing to do so where a minor office is concerned, but S. 679 punts on major offices that have significant authority.
The Senate's role in giving advice and consent on presidential appointees shouldn’t be diminished lightly. The Senate should make its own rules to speed up its internal process for considering nominations.
Alexander Hamilton, in the Federalist papers, noted that senatorial review acts as “an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the president, and… tend* greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters.” More recently, in the 1995 case Ryder v. United States, the Supreme Court affirmed that the Appointments Clause of the Constitution “is a bulwark against one branch aggrandizing its power at the expense of another branch.”
That’s what is at stake. S. 679 addresses a real problem, and there’s no question that the approval process for presidential appointees needs to be sped up. It’s a shame this particular legislative vehicle is such a clunker.
Ed Feulner is president of the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in The Washington Times
American Leadership Initiative of the Leadership for America Campaign
Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
Read More >>
Request an interview >>
Please complete the following form to request an interview with a Heritage expert.
Please note that all fields must be completed.
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 200,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Read More
© 2013, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973