House passes bill eliminating Senate confirmation for presidential appointees
UPDATE: The House passed the legislation Tuesday night by a vote of 261-116. The bill now goes to President Obama’s desk for his signature.
The House of Representatives is set to consider legislation Tuesday that would exempt certain presidential appointees from having to be confirmed by the Senate.
But a number of conservative groups are arguing that the “Presidential Efficiency and Streamlining Act” amounts to Congress neutering itself and giving the executive branch unprecedented power.
Presidential appointees that would no longer require Senate confirmation under the legislation include the treasurer of the United States and the deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.
“The United States Constitution does not bestow kingly powers on the President to appoint the senior officers of the government with no process,” wrote Thomas McClusky, the senior vice president for the Family Research Council’s legislative arm, in a Monday memo to lawmakers.
Sources told The Daily Caller that there is concern in the ranks among conservatives opposed to the legislation that House leaders will bring the legislation up for a voice vote to avoid putting members on the record.
“I can tell you that there will be members who want this vote on the record,” an aide to one conservative member told TheDC. “Whether or not they’ll get the chance is still in question.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office didn’t comment on questions Tuesday from TheDC about the bill.
But the intent of the legislation is to help tackle the backlog of presidential appointees needing congressional confirmation. Critics like McClusky argue this is the result of a larger problem.
“If the Senate wants to streamline the process, it should eliminate some of the administration’s positions,” McClusky wrote.
The legislation, sponsored by New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, passed the Senate in June 2011, with 20 Republicans voting against it. The Senate bill has 17 co-sponsors, including both Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McClusky of FRC Action estimated in his memo that “thousands of positions would be filled by the President without any Senate vetting.”
The legislation would affect appointments across the executive branch, including to the Defense, Homeland Security and Justice departments.
Referencing the Obama administration, McClusky wrote that, “In an administration that’s already circumvented Congress with dozens of controversial ‘czars’ this would mean even less accountability for the White House.”
In an April 2011 blog post, David S. Addington, a senior vice president and deputy chief operating officer of The Heritage Foundation, cited the “slow and detailed background investigations and mounds of duplicative paperwork.” He wrote that the bill sponsors have “identified a valid problem, but proposed the wrong solution.”
“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,” he wrote.”The Senate should look inward and streamline its internal procedures for considering all nominations.”