Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) announced House passage of bipartisan legislation to clear the backlog of stalled executive nominations by permanently exempting a range of positions from Senate confirmation. The legislation, which passed the Senate last summer and the House today, will reduce gridlock and increase the productivity of the Senate. The legislation now moves to the President's desk.
Once signed by the President, the bill would eliminate the need for the Senate to vote on roughly 170 executive nominations and 3,000 Officer Corps positions. In all, the bill, combined with a separate Senate resolution that passed last summer, reduces or streamlines the number of positions requiring full Senate confirmation by one-third.
The measures are co-sponsored by Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
Senator Schumer, the Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said: "This landmark bipartisan agreement strikes the right balance between getting important positions in the government filled quickly and preserving the Senate's "advice and consent' role. It isn't often that Congress voluntarily takes steps to curb its own power. But for the good of our democracy, the Senate must become more efficient. This reform bill will help to break the gridlock that has dominated the Senate, allowing both parties to focus on driving an agenda designed to create jobs and reduce the deficit. This legislation will allow a President of any party to more quickly build his or her team and get to work for the good of the country following an election."
Senator Alexander, the Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee, said: "Too often the confirmation process has degenerated into a time-consuming, unfair ordeal that creates an "innocent until nominated' syndrome. This law will make it easier for the next president to recruit distinguished, qualified Americans. It will avoid the trivialization of the nominations process and focus the Senate's full attention on the 1,200 nominees still requiring confirmation. This bill completes the five-part agreement that began in this Congress to make the Senate more effective in getting results, which included ending secret holds on presidential nominations and legislation, and stopping the lengthy process of reading amendments aloud on the Senate floor as long as they've been posted online for at least 72 hours."
Senator Lieberman, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, which marked up and reported out the measure, said: "This bipartisan legislation represents the Senate at its best. A problem was identified, and Democrats and Republicans worked together to craft a solution. Now, future Administrations will be able to get their teams in place more quickly, and the Senate will be able focus its time and energy on the most important Executive Branch appointments. In no way does this bill erode the Senate's role of "advice and consent." Rather, it strengthens the Senate's power by freeing us up to concentrate on nominees who will actually shape national policy."
Senator Collins, the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, said: "The number of positions requiring Senate confirmation has sky-rocketed in recent decades. For those of us concerned about the size of government, it is alarming. Prioritizing our work for the American people, by eliminating some Senate-confirmed positions, does not diminish the Senate's authority. This legislation will enable the Senate to focus on the critical work of creating jobs, reducing the debt, strengthening our homeland security, and conducting more effective oversight of the executive branch."
The legislation passed today was a product of bipartisan negotiations among Congressional leaders last year. Those negotiations followed a series of hearings convened by the Senate Rules Committee on ways to make the Senate more efficient. The legislation itself was the subject of a hearing held by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, led by Senators Lieberman and Collins.
A list of positions exempted from Senate confirmation appears below.