Senate clears bill to streamline confirming executive nominees

The Senate on Wednesday cleared legislation by a vote of 79-20 that would improve efficiency in the upper chamber’s process of confirming minor executive nominees.

"This bipartisan bill and resolution ... will effectively change the way the Senate does business,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the moments leading up to the vote. “For the good of our democracy, the Senate must become more efficient.”

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The Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 would eliminate the need for many executive nominees for minor posts in the government to be confirmed by the Senate as a whole.

Instead it would allow some nominees to be dealt with on the committee level, a measure that is expected to save hundreds of hours of the Senate’s time.

But Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who opposed the bill, said the Senate was dealing with a symptom of the problem of rapidly expanding government, rather than the root cause.

“We're dealing with symptoms of a much deeper problem,” said DeMint. “The reason we have gone from a few hundred confirmations ... to thousands today are because of the incredible exponential growth of the federal government.

“Rather than to look at this behemoth that we have created, we are looking to make it somewhat less accountable,” said DeMint.

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But Schumer did not seem troubled by the growth in executive scope and power.

“The rapid growth of the executive branch has put unanticipated burdens on the Senate whose job it is to confirm the president’s appointees,” Schumer said.  “But there is nothing wrong with the Senate doing a little prioritizing of its pending business.”

Prior to the passage of the bill, the Senate also debated a series of amendments to determine which nominees would still require full Senate confirmation.

The Senate also defeated two DeMint amendments. One would have enhanced accountability and transparency among various executive agencies and another would have stripped the International Monetary Fund of some U.S. funding.