The most important possible measure coming up for the week of June 27 is the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act. While the Senate has the constitutional right to consent to all presidential nominees, there are many minor but important nominees that are delayed or never confirmed because of the process. The leadership of both parties has been working on an agreement to eliminate those posts from the Senate confirmation process. S.679, the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act, is the result of work by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Both are members of the party leadership and are (respectively) the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.
Chances of Passage
Seven Republicans are on the record as supporters of this legislation. Senators Lamar Alexander (TN), Scott Brown (MA), Susan Collins (ME), Mike Johanns (NE), Jon Kyl (AZ, Minority Whip), Dick Lugar (IN), Mitch McConnell (KY, Minority Leader). The 53 Senate Democrats will likely stay united in favor of this bill. Since this bill is supported by both the Democratic and Republican leadership, freshmen Republican will also likely go along with the bill. Any opposition will come from the more senior or more conservative Republicans. If the bill were to come to a roll call vote, 65-70 votes in favor would be a safe, low estimate.
While the Republican leadership played an active role in putting S.679 together, Republican members who feel that aggressively filibustering presidential nominees is an important tool may express discontent with the bill. In practical terms, this means that Republicans introduced several amendments to retain Senate confirmation for certain positions. These amendments are a likely source of delay as the bill wraps up. Passage of the bill was expected last week.
Procedure: What You'll See On The Floor
Because of the broad bipartisan support for the bill, the Senate leadership has opted to consider and pass the bill by unanimous consent. This reinforces the good will and cooperation between the two parties on this bill. Nevertheless, if there are significant movements to fight the bill and force delays, the Senate could always invoke cloture. This is a 60 vote process to limit debate and amendments. While the Senate could easily achieve cloture on this bill, the leadership hopes not to resort to cloture. The Senate will likely proceed slowly, but surely by unanimous consent.
First-degree amendments (amendments directly affecting the text of the bill) to S.679 should have been filed by 5pm last Thursday, so any further amendments will be second-degree (amendments amending first-degree amendments). Expect to see Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ask unanimous consent that all second-degree amendments be filed by a certain deadline. The Senate would then proceed to set a new timetable for consideration of those amendments and the underlying bill.
We will have more updates as the bill progresses on the floor.