THE BLOG
01/13/2013 04:54 pm ET | Updated Mar 15, 2013

Presidential Appointments Shouldn't Require Senate Approval

Once again, my 94-year-old father has an observation that I wish I had thought of first.

Presidential appointments, from cabinet secretaries to department heads to judges, should not require the "advice and consent" of the increasingly partisan and obstructionist Senate.

As was glaringly obvious from the Republican witch hunt that unfairly derailed Susan Rice's impending nomination for Secretary of State, the constitutional requirement for Senate confirmation is no longer a useful or reasonable check on presidential power.

And as the opposition to Chuck Hagel's nomination for secretary of defense indicates, nominees are now deemed to be unacceptable simply if their views on certain issues differ from those of Senators from the opposing party, even if the nominee is from their own party. Hagel's opposition to the Iraq War should not be a reason for Senators like John McCain and others to possibly deny his confirmation.

Last summer, the House passed a bill, that was approved by the Senate more than a year earlier, that revised Article II of the Constitution to remove from the Senate the power to accept or reject the appointment of many presidential nominees. 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) were among those affected by the change in the "advice and consent" requirement.

But now is the time to expand the scope of that constitutional change to have all government and judicial appointments, except the Supreme Court, made solely by presidential edict.

Throughout the Obama administration, many top management positions have gone unfilled, even at the Treasury during the height of the fiscal crisis. One of the consequences of the bitterly partisan and ideological scrutiny of potential public servants is that an increasing number of highly qualified people understandably choose not to be subjected to such harsh and unfair attacks by the opposition.

Although Republicans have taken this obstructionism to a new level, Democrats have been guilty of this in the past as well. And it is also true, that a Republican administration would be able to make presidential appointments that are ideologically extreme and even frightening to fellow progressives. But elections have consequences, and letting the president choose the people who will carry out his policies should be one of them.

And the most important part of allowing this needed expansion of presidential power, is to ensure that the best and the brightest are no longer discouraged to serve by a brutal confirmation process that has outlived its usefulness.

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