Sen. Tom Coburn is raising more questions about a bipartisan deal to pare down the number of executive branch positions that need Senate confirmation.
The bipartisan deal struck to streamline the Senate’s confirmation process has run into a major obstacle, not unlike most everything else that Republicans and Democrats have attempted to do together this year.
Conservative Sen. Tom Coburn said last week that he’s still fighting a bill that would eliminate Senate confirmation for more than 200 administration nominees. An estimated 1,215 now require confirmation.
“There needs to be some work on the bill before I’m ready to see it come to the floor,” the Oklahoma Republican told Roll Call.
“I can give you three instances of people who would be excluded in that who ended up not getting appointments because of an FBI investigation,” he added. Senate confirmed nominees go through FBI background checks.
The bill, a product of negotiations between Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), would start to roll back the explosion of Senate-confirmed positions since the 1960s while simplifying the process for nominees. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the bill April 13, but Coburn, who sits on the panel, opposed it.
Coburn has also resisted a companion Senate rules change intended to expedite consideration of nearly 250 other nominations, citing a May 13 Congressional Research Service report that he requested.
A senior Democratic aide dismissed Coburn’s complaints and said the package would easily pass the Senate.
“Its passage is assured, and the fact that Dr. No may be inclined to hold it up is not the barometer of whether it’s going to pass or not,” the aide said, referring to Coburn.
Indeed, if the Senator tries to hold up the measures, the aide said, it’s “almost a microcosm of the larger problem this bill is trying to solve. ... In a body of 100, there will always be someone willing to nitpick or criticize or take hostages.”
But Coburn said in a statement that a rules change isn’t necessary.
“The CRS findings indicate a failure to act by just a few committees — rather than a dysfunctional institutional glitch or partisan gamesmanship — is the real cause of the vast majority of backlogged nominees,” he said. “Changing Senate rules would be unlikely to fix that problem. What is needed is to get this handful of committees to do their job.”
The CRS report found that of the 118 nominees awaiting Senate action as of May 6, 87 were in just three committees — Foreign Relations, Judiciary, and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
The bill to reduce the number of nominations has also taken fire from some conservative groups. David Addington, former chief of staff to then-Vice President Dick Cheney and a vice president at the Heritage Foundation, said in an April 1 post that the Senate should accelerate its reviews of nominees but not cede more power to the executive branch.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.