Schumer, Alexander, Lieberman, Collins Unveil Bill to Streamline Senate Confirmation Process

Once Enacted, Law Would Reduce or Streamline Number of Positions Requiring Full Senate Confirmation By One-Third

Posted on March 30, 2011

Measure Strikes Proper Balance Between Filling Important Positions Quickly While Preserving Senate’s ‘Advise and Consent’ Role 

Passage of Bill Would Complete Agreement Struck By Senate Leaders To Avert Filibuster Standoff

WASHINGTON, DC—In keeping with the bipartisan agreement reached earlier this year to reform the rules of the Senate, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) today offered legislation to clear the backlog of stalled executive nominations by permanently exempting a range of positions from Senate confirmation.

Once enacted into law, the bill would eliminate the need for the Senate to vote on roughly 200 executive nominations and 3,000 noncontroversial Officer Corps positions. In all, the bill reduces the number of positions requiring full Senate confirmation by one-third. A separate Senate resolution, also introduced today, would establish a streamlined confirmation process for an additional 250 part-time positions.

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 is the final piece to the puzzle of the bipartisan agreement on Senate rules reform. It strikes the right balance between getting important positions in the government filled quickly while preserving the Senate’s ‘advise and consent’ role. The Senate was designed to be a thoughtful and deliberative body, but the confirmation process has often become gridlocked.  The American public is harmed when we are not able to get qualified people confirmed to positions in a timely manner.”

Senator Alexander, the Ranking Member of the Senate Rules committee, said: “This bipartisan effort will free up the Senate so it can focus on our country’s most urgent needs of reducing spending and debt, rather than on confirming hundreds of junior and part-time positions in any president’s administration, like the public-relations officer of a minor department. The Senate will still continue to confirm about a thousand presidential nominees – nearly four times as many appointees as President Kennedy had.”

Senator Lieberman, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, said: "One hundred days into President Obama's Administration, only 14 percent of the Senate-confirmed positions in his Administration had been filled. After 18 months, 25 percent of these positions were still vacant. And this is not an aberration or anomaly. The timetables for putting in place a leadership team across the government has been pretty much the same each of the last three times there has been a change of occupant in the White House. We've known about this problem a long time, but failed to act. After years of talk, we finally have bipartisan support for change. I call on my fellow chairmen, ranking members, and colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work with us on addressing this challenge so the next new Administration, regardless of party, can recruit the best candidates and then put them to work quickly addressing the many challenges our nation faces."

Senator Collins, the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, said: "While we must deliver on our duty to provide Advice and Consent, reforms are needed to improve the effective operation of government.  We all want the most qualified people to serve the President and the nation.  We should, therefore, ensure that the process is not unnecessarily burdensome and that key leadership posts do not go unfilled for long stretches of time.  Most of all, we need to reform the process so that good people, whose talents and energy we need, do not become so discouraged that they give up their goal of serving the public."

The passage of the bipartisan bill would complete the agreement struck by Senate leaders earlier this year to avert a standoff on the Senate floor over potential changes to the filibuster rule. That deal included a “gentlemen’s agreement” that in exchange for an open amendment process, neither party would filibuster motions to proceed on bills brought to the Senate floor. Already, by virtue of that agreement, the Senate has completed work on major bills including an FAA Reauthorization and a patent reform measure.

The Leaders’ agreement also included a commitment to not reopen potential changes to the filibuster during either the rest of this session of Congress or in the next one.

A list of positions exempted from Senate confirmation by the bipartisan measure introduced today appears below.

Agriculture (11/36 will be made non-confirmable)

Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations, Department of Agriculture

Chief Financial Officer, Department of Agriculture

Assistant Secretary for Administration, Department of Agriculture

Rural Utilities Service Administrator

Directors (7), Commodity Credit Corporation

 

Armed Services (12/78 will be made non-confirmable)

Assistant Secretary of Defense (Networks and Information Integration)

Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)

Assistant Secretary of Defense (Legislative Affairs)

Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Comptroller)

Assistant Secretary of the Army (Comptroller)

Assistant Secretary of Navy (Comptroller)

Members (6), National Security Education Board

 

Banking (8/81 will be made non-confirmable)

Assistant Secretary for Administration, Human Capital Officer, HUD

Chief Financial Officer, HUD

Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations, HUD

Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, HUD

Director of the Mint, Department of the Treasury

Members (2), Council of Economic Advisers

Administrator, Community Development Financial Institution Fund

 

Commerce (14/103 regular positions and 319 NOAA Officer Corps positions will be made non-confirmable)

Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, Department of Commerce

Assistant Secretary for Administration and Chief Financial Officer, Department of Commerce

Assistant Secretary for Communication and Information, Department of Commerce

Chief Scientist, NOAA

Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs - CFO, Department of Transportation

Assistant Secretary for Government Affairs, Department of Transportation

Deputy Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

Chief Financial Officer, NASA

Associate Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy

Associate Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy

Associate Director, Science, Office of Science and Technology Policy

Associate Director, Technology, Office of Science and Technology Policy

Administrator, St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation

Federal Coordinator, Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Project

Officer Corps of NOAA (319 additional positions)

 

Energy (2/31 will be made non-confirmable)

Chief Financial Officer, Department of Energy

Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Energy

 

Environment and Public Works (9/63 will be made non-confirmable)

Alternate Federal Co-Chairman, Appalachian Regional Commission

Chief Financial Officer, EPA

Commissioners (7), Mississippi River Corporation

 

Finance (4/50 will be made non-confirmable)

Deputy Under Secretary/Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, Department of Treasury

Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Director of Policy Planning, Department of Treasury

Assistant Secretary for Management and Chief Financial Officer, Department of Treasury

Treasurer of the United States

 

Foreign Relations (14/323 will be made non-confirmable)

Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of State

Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Department of State

Assistant Secretary for Administration, Department of State

Chief Financial Officer, Department of State

Assistant Administrator for Legislative and Public Affairs, USAID

Assistant Administrator for Management, USAID

Governor, African Development Bank

Alternate Governor, African Development Bank

Governor, Asian Development Bank

Alternate Governor, Asian Development Bank

Governor, International Monetary Fund and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development

Alternate Governor, International Monetary Fund and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development

Governor, African Development Fund

Alternate Governor, African Development Fund

 

HELP (101/281 regular positions and 2,536 Public Health Service Officer Corps positions will be made non-confirmable)

Chief Financial Officer, Department of Education

Assistant Secretary for Management, Department of Education

Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs, Department of Education

Commissioner - Rehabilitation Services Administration

Commissioner - Education Statistics

Assistant Secretary for Resources and Technology/CFO, Department of HHS

Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Department of HHS

Assistant Secretary for Legislation, Department of HHS

Commissioner, Administration for Children, Youth, Families

Commissioner, Administration for Native Americans

Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management, Department of Labor

Chief Financial Officer, Department of Labor

Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs, Department of Labor

Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Department of Labor

Director of the Women's Bureau, Department of Labor

Chairperson, National Council on Disability

Vice Chairperson (2), National Council on Disability

Members (12), National Council on Disability

Members (24), National Science Foundation

Managing Directors (2), Corporation on National and Community Service

Members (15), National Board of Education Sciences

Members (20), National Museum and Library Services Board

Members (10), National Institute for Literary Advisory Board

Public Health Services Corps (2,536 additional positions)

 

HSGAC (6/60 will be made non-confirmable)

Chief Financial Officer, Department of Homeland Security

Controller, Office of Federal Financial Management, OMB

Director, Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement, DHS

Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs Chief Medical Officer, DHS

Administrator, U.S. Fire Administration, Department of Homeland Security

Assistant Administrator, Grants, FEMA

 

Indian Affairs (14/15 will be made non-confirmable)

Commissioner, Navajo and Hopi Relocation

Members (13), Board of Trustees, Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture

 

Judiciary (10/248 will be made non-confirmable)

Assistant Attorney General - Legislative Affairs, Department of Justice

Director, Bureau of Justice Statistics

Director, Bureau of Justice Assistance

Director, National Institute of Justice

Administrator, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Director, Office for Victims of Crime

Deputy Director, National Drug Control Policy

Deputy Director, Demand Reduction, National Drug Control Policy

Deputy Director, State and Local Affairs, National Drug Control Policy

Deputy Director, Supply Reduction, National Drug Control Policy

 

Veterans Affairs (5/16 will be made non-confirmable)

Assistant Secretary for Management, Department of Veterans Affairs

Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs

Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs

Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs

Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology, Department of Veterans Affairs

# # #