Thursday, June 30, 2011

the hostage reduction act

President John Adams once said, "Every time I make a nomination, I create 99 enemies and one ingrate."  The way the Senate has been handling nominations in recent years, we can add a corollary: Every presidential nomination creates one hostage and 100 potential hostage-takers.

The Senate has now taken a baby step toward reducing the number of hostages. It has voted for a bill eliminating the need for Senate confirmation for about 220 officials. That still leaves over 3500 positions requiring Senate approval, but it's a step in the right direction. While Senators rightly want to be able to interrogate and occasionally reject nominees who wield significant power over policies and programs, the reclassified positions are mainly legislative and public affairs officials, and others below the rank of assistant secretary who have to report to a confirmed official.

The Senate took another useful step in passing a resolution automatically placing members of most advisory commissions that still require confirmation in a special status of "privileged nominations." Their names are on the calendar for approval after ten days unless a Senator asks specific referral to a committee for further inquiry. That still allows holds and delays, but creates a presumption of prompt action.

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