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.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.