Unanimous Consent Senate Blog applauds the work of the Senate leadership and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which voted to report a bill that would remove hundreds of mid-level appointments from the grueling and often partisan Senate confirmation process. There are some people, however, who express objection to such a measure because it gives too much power to the executive branch. This article will give you a very quick rundown of where Senate stakeholders stand on this issue, and the comment on the criticisms and the chance of final passage on the Senate floor.
This was negotiated in a bipartisan fashion between the leadership of both parties in the Senate. Therefore, you can add the following to the list of yes votes:
Senator Harry Reid (Majority Leader, D-NV)
Senator Mitch McConnell (Minority Leader, R-KY)
Senator Dick Durbin (Majority Whip, D-IL)
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
I am never too sure about Senator Jon Kyl, the Minority Whip from Arizona, but I presume he'll fall in line.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Chairman: yes
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), ranking member: yes
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY): expressing reservations
-- Rand Paul spokesperson: "“Allowing the president to appoint czars and bureaucrats without Congressional oversight adds to the problem of an ever-expanding, unaccountable government."
-- David Addington, former VP Cheney Chief of Staff: of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, The drafters of the Constitution “did not give the president the kingly power to appoint the senior officers of the government by himself.”
Senator Tom Udall (D-NM): fairly definite yes vote, but will be disappointed this measure did not come as a broader package of Senate rule changes
Both Senator Paul and Senator Udall are off the mark in their criticisms. It would be helpful if the Tea Party Caucus did not make everything about the big government v small debate. It's a valid debate, but Senator Paul should remember that the Democratic and Republican leadership agreed on the specific positions that did not need to go through the confirmation process. This measure does not give the President any power to create new positions without oversight, and it won't affect the "czars," who were never Senate confirmable in the first place. The Tea Party Caucus should vote with the broader Republican Party on this one.
To give you an idea of where Senator Udall is coming from, here's a quote from The New York Times.
“This is a start, but it doesn’t address the real problems with the rules or with the
confirmation process,” said Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, who has proposed shortening the time that lawmakers can debate a nomination after cutting off a
filibuster to 4 hours from 30. “These are baby steps.”
Mr. Udall helped push the Senate into considering an overhaul of the confirmation process
early this year when he threatened to force a floor fight on a proposal to limit filibusters. To avert a showdown, the leadership agreed to look at procedural changes, and the proposal to
cut the number of Senate confirmations was one result.
Senator Udall's approach, while well-meaning, is too far reaching and misses the heart of the problem over Senate confirmation of presidential appointees. First of all, Senate rules were put into place to protect the rights of a minority in debate and legislation. It is true that there have been abuses of Senate rules on both sides of the aisle, but changing the fundamental character of the Senate through formal rules changes is not an acceptable answer. Nobody likes the new guy who comes into a losing game and blames the rules for everything. Don't change the rules; change how you play the game. The Senate has done exactly that, borrowing the momentum of Senator Udall's extreme proposals to bring the Democratic and Republican leadership to the table and hammer out a proposal that (1) has bipartisan support (2)will truly make a difference.
Will It Pass?
The measure in its current state is virtually assured of passage. Several things could make the process much harder. The sudden attention The New York Times has given the measure, coupled with increasing awareness and activism among the conservative base of the Republican Party, could create a sizable contingent unwilling to vote for the measure. While this would not prevent the Senate from passing the measure, it could create an actual floor fight and make the process much uglier. It is crucial that the leadership of both parties keep their newer members in line.
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Also see this NYT link for more info: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/25/us/politics/25nominate.html?hp&gwh=D0528B3E0B59E4EFA793612CF1A51DCD