Presidential nominees for Army, Navy, and Air Force Comptroller posts, along with almost 200 other executive nominations, would no longer require Senate confirmation under a bipartisan proposal announced this week. In a press release unveiling the plan, Senate Rules Committee chair Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the proposal “strikes the right balance between getting important positions in the government filled quickly while preserving the Senate’s ‘advise and consent’ role." Schumer, stressing bipartisan support for the proposal, cited Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Joe Lieberman (IND-CT), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell as co-sponsors of the bill. The proposal will now be subject to the normal legislative process and must be approved by the House and Senate and signed by the president before it becomes law.
In recent years, critics have described the Senate confirmation process as gridlocked; taking too much time, adversely affecting federal agency operations, and discouraging qualified people from the public service. Sen. Collins, ranking Republican of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said that over 1,200 presidential appointments currently require Senate conformation, compared to 286 in 1961 when John F. Kennedy became president. Sen. Lieberman underscored the ever-slowing pace of the confirmation process by pointing out that after 18 months, 25 percent of Obama Administration appointments requiring confirmation had not been filled.
The new plan would exempt 200 current executive nominations from a Senate vote. In addition to exempting the Army, Navy, and Air Force Comptroller positions from the confirmation process, the plan also exempts nominations for the DoD positions of Assistant Secretary of Defense (Networks and Information Integration), Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), and Assistant Secretary of Defense (Legislative Affairs). A full list of proposed exemptions is shown in Sen. Schumer’s press release.