You are here: HomeU.S. NewsCongressHouse Passes Bill Eliminating Senate Approval of Presidential Appointments
Friday, 03 August 2012 09:22

House Passes Bill Eliminating Senate Approval of Presidential Appointments

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By a vote of 261-116, the House of Representatives passed a bill rewriting Article II of the Constitution and divesting the Senate of the power to accept or reject the appointment of many presidential nominees.

Last year, the Senate passed the measure by a vote of 79-20, so it now goes to the desk of President Obama for his signature.

"Important positions will be filled faster, government agencies will be more capable of offering valuable services to their constituents, and the overall confirmation process will be more efficient,” said Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Dozens of key management positions in the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Commerce, and Homeland Security (including the treasurer of the United States, the deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, the director of the Office for Domestic Preparedness, and the assistant administrator of FEMA) will now be filled by presidential edict, without the need of the “advice and consent” of the Senate, a phrase specifically removed from the process in the text of the bill.

Although the House vote occurred on Tuesday, the Senate voted to surrender its constitutional check on the executive over a year ago on June 29, 2011.

Despite a last-minute attempt by some House leaders to put the measure to a voice vote, thus allowing members to vote in favor of the legislation without being listed on the record, a roll call vote was taken, and the name of every congressman who voted to unconstitutionally neuter the legislative branch is listed.

The process began last March when Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and 15 cosponsors, including Republicans Lamar Alexander (Tenn.); Scott Brown (Mass.); and Mitch McConnell (Ky.), introduced S. 679, the “Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act.” The measure struck from many current laws the “advice and consent” requirement for many executive branch appointments, giving the president unchecked power to fill key administration positions.

In a memo sent to Capitol Hill in advance of Tuesday’s vote in the House, Thomas McClusky of the Family Research Council reminded lawmakers, “The United States Constitution does not bestow kingly powers on the President to appoint the senior officers of the government with no process.”

Although McClusky’s reading of the Constitution is accurate, as of Tuesday it is no longer the law of the land. According to proponents of the measure, the bill benefitted from such strong bipartisan support (95 Republicans joined 166 Democrats voting in favor of passage) because its sole purpose is to relieve the backlog of unconfirmed appointees by eliminating the confirmation requirement for about 200 offices.

The process by which heads of executive branch departments are appointed and confirmed is set forth by Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. The “Appointments Clause” provides that the president:

shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

Now, as soon as President Obama adds his signature to the bill, the checks and balances established by our Founding Fathers as a protection against tyranny will be eliminated, as well as the concept of enumerated powers. 

This history of the delicate system created by our Founders was synopsized in an article published by the Heritage Foundation:

When the delegates of the states gathered in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 and wrote the Constitution, they distributed the powers of the federal government among two Houses of Congress, a President, and a judiciary, and required in many cases that two of them work together to exercise a particular constitutional power. That separation of powers protects the liberties of the American people by preventing any one officer of the government from aggregating too much power.

The Framers of the Constitution did not give the President the kingly power to appoint the senior officers of the government by himself. Instead, they allowed the President to name an individual for a senior office, but then required the President to obtain the Senate’s consent before appointing the individual to office. Thus, they required the cooperation of the President and the Senate to put someone in high office.

Many of the Framers had practical experience with government and recognized that not every office would be of sufficient authority and consequence as to merit the attention of both the President and the Senate to an appointment to the office. Therefore, they provided a means by which the Congress by law could decide which of the lesser offices of government could be filled by the President alone, a court, or a department head.

The Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act removes these barriers between the branches and shifts the powers of appointment in such a way that the very foundation of our Republic is weakened under the crushing weight of a powerful executive branch.

In light of this impending imbalance, it must be inquired as to what could compel Congress to legislate away its own power? Why would so many representatives in the Senate and the House willingly abolish their role as bulwark against executive despotism?

Arguably, the answer is a desire to reduce its workload and improve the efficiency of government. 

To the minds of many, however, the trade of rightful power for a more streamlined appointment process is a ripoff. As the Heritage Foundation says:

The Congress should not reduce the number of Senate-confirmed appointments as a means of dealing with its cumbersome and inefficient internal process for considering nominations. Doing so gives away Senate influence over a number of significant appointments, does nothing to improve the Senate process, and still leaves nominees whose offices require nominations mired in the Senate process. 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. The Senate should look inward and streamline its internal procedures for considering all nominations. The proper solution also is the faster one, as the Senate can accomplish the solution by acting on its own in the exercise of its power to make Senate rules, while S. 679 requires approval by both Houses of Congress.

Assuming for the sake of argument that there is a bottleneck in the nomination and confirmation pipeline, one solution is for the executive and legislative branches to work within the framework of the Constitution’s separation of powers to remove the blockage.

Alternatively, however, the Congress could eliminate the problem altogether by reducing the size of the bureaucracy by absolutely refusing to sign off on the creation or continuation of any department, program, or agency that isn’t specifically authorized by the powers granted by the states to the federal government in the Constitution. Such a commitment to be bound by the Constitution would significantly reduce the number of executive branch offices for which appointments would be necessary, thereby dissolving the confirmation clog.

Photo of Treasurer of the United States Rosa Gumataotao Rios: Official Photo

 

9 comments

  • Comment Link Ric A Ohge Monday, 06 August 2012 13:35 posted by Ric A Ohge

    While the Bill may actually be legal, the way it was "slid by us" is questionable, particularly at a time when so many appointees that went through "Advise and Consent" vetting have turned out to be shills, sell-outs, hucksters, grifters, and rats in general. I doubt this will improve the quality of such appointees.

    The Bill met the requirements of the "Letter of the Law", but without any of it's intended Spirit. It goes to show you, "You can put a satin bow on a pig, but it's still a pig.

  • Comment Link Dean Monday, 06 August 2012 10:15 posted by Dean

    The headline for this article is very deceptive. The bill eliminates Senate confirmation only for SOME offices that could certainly be labeled as "inferior," and thus not constitutionally requiring Senate confirmation (as correctly explained by commenter Kenneth Beck).

    Senate confirmation is unaffected for major offices such as department heads and judges and justices of the judiciary. THAT kind of a change would require an amendment to the Constitution, but that is not what Congress passed.

    To take it to another extreme, what if Senate confirmation was required for every single managerial position in the executive branch--even down to the senior assistant to the assistant undersecretary, and so on? That would be an unnecessary waste of the Senate's time in my opinion, and that is the reason why the Constitution provides for appointment of "inferior officers" in the last part of the Appointments Clause quoted in the article.

    Now, I do agree that the better solution is to speed up the Senate and reduce government bureaucracy; however, I felt the need to clear up that the bill is constitutional, and DOES NOT REQUIRE a constitutional amendment to be effective.

  • Comment Link Kenneth Beck Monday, 06 August 2012 08:16 posted by Kenneth Beck

    Why I totally disagree with this bill' it is completely Constitutional, for those above and the writer (Joe Woverton, II) read the last line of article 2 it states:

    "but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments."

    This dosen't mean that congress should of passed this garbage but they did and do have theConstitutional authority to do so.

    Our founders did not think that the Senate would become what it has, that is why they spkoke of "throwing off government".

  • Comment Link Richard Monday, 06 August 2012 06:49 posted by Richard

    I say remember in November. Vote against EVERY incumbent, even people in their first term. Replace all of them.
    http://www.blowoutcongress.com

  • Comment Link Paul Prichard Sunday, 05 August 2012 16:05 posted by Paul Prichard

    Is this the 28th amendment or is the Constitution dead ?

  • Comment Link Brian Saturday, 04 August 2012 09:45 posted by Brian

    Please excuse my language but those selfish bastards! To unblock a bottleneck or backlog they changed the constitution those SB's. So in order that they don't have to do their job they freakin changed the constitution of the United States of America..those selfish B's...... I am so sorry for using those words but I can't think of or see them in any other light right now. The sad part is there is a president in the White house right now that wants nothing more than power. What can't they see? They shut up when czars were appointed.They shut up when he deems illegal acts to be legal....Those SB's! Get your sorry a**es to work and run the country before it is run in the ground. I want to know each and every one of those SB's that voted for this measure............................ I wonder if any of the so-called tea party congressmen and women voted for this load of ------?

  • Comment Link David Phaneuf Saturday, 04 August 2012 00:38 posted by David Phaneuf

    Did I miss something here?

    And can someone explain just what happened to ARTICLE V of the Constitution?

    Article V.
    The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

  • Comment Link Charles D Bingham Friday, 03 August 2012 22:35 posted by Charles D Bingham

    What in the world is happening to our country? These dang politicians are insane. The entire point of separation of powers is TO make government slow! A slow government, slowly takes your rights away. A fast government, well fill in the blank.

  • Comment Link Johnny Friday, 03 August 2012 09:20 posted by Johnny

    What checks and balances are we left with anyway? This just formalizes what has already occurred. We have "Czars" in charge of various areas. We have a surveillance and intelligence apparatus that is larger than the East Germans and Soviets ever dreamed. And its about to be turned on us more fully.

    I've written letters. I've tried to be involved. But I'm a layman who has real financial responsibilities and who is not getting bailed out of my mistakes by my government. I write what I feel is an informed letter and I get a book back written by a staffer whose sole job is to research the politician's views on the matter and articulate them in such a way as to be unarguable.

    Face it. The average citizen is outgunned. I don't have time to do the rebuttal research. I stated my opinion. It is ALWAYS ignored because the official has already made up his mind and he has volumes of data to support his choice.

    We have NO say over our government so long as we continue to elect the same clowns over and over.

    The only hope we have is for enough people to say "enough!" and elect local friends and business owners that have never held political office to the Senate and the House. We must do away with this two-headed monster called Democrats and Republicans and elect real people. Is it going to happen? No. It was such an uphill battle to get simply Rand Paul elected. And that has to happen everywhere and not under the standard political banners.

    Enough commentary. I have to get back to my real job so that my family still has a roof over its head and we can eat next month.

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