U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said that passage by the House of Representatives today of a bill he introduced with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to reform the presidential-nominations process "completes a five-part agreement that began in this Congress to make the Senate more effective in getting results on the serious issues facing our country."
Alexander said the most important step, accomplished through this legislation, was to eliminate the confirmation of 169 executive nominations to junior and part-time positions and almost 3,000 noncontroversial Officer Corps positions, such as members of the Public Health Service Officer Corps and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Officer Corps. He said, "This will help avoid the trivialization of the Senate's duty of advice and consent by leaving the Senate time to focus its full attention on more than 1,200 presidential nominations still requiring Senate confirmation."
Alexander said the second important step was the establishment of an executive-branch working group to report to the president and Congress on simplifying the process of nominating and vetting presidential nominees. Alexander said, "Too often the confirmation process has degenerated into a time-consuming, unfair ordeal that creates an "innocent until nominated' syndrome. This bill will make it easier for the next president to recruit distinguished, qualified Americans to our government."
Also, Alexander said, "the Senate, after a dozen years of trying, banned secret holds on presidential nominations and legislation."
Another part of the bipartisan agreement stopped the lengthy process of reading amendments aloud on the Senate floor, as long as they've been posted online for 72 hours.
Finally, Alexander said there was a "gentleman's agreement" last year that the majority leader would allow amendments if the minority would allow the majority leader to bring bills to the Senate floor for consideration. Alexander said "this agreement has worked well when the majority leader has allowed amendments, and has failed to work when he has not."
The legislation to reform the nominations process, which passed the Senate on June 29th, 2011, by a vote of 79-20, was cosponsored by the Senate's party leaders, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, as well as Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).