Senate considers deal to reduce confirmations

Shorter confirmation list is part of an effort to improve the chamber's efficiency.

A measure that would cut the number of executive nominees needing full Senate confirmation from roughly 1,400 to about 1,000 is advancing in the Senate.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and ranking member Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., on Wednesday introduced the bill, which was conceived as part of a Senate leadership deal in January to expedite Senate procedures.

The bill would designate about 200 federal jobs that would no longer need Senate confirmation.

Most of the positions involved are public affairs officials, chief financial officers, information technology officials, internal managers, and deputies reporting to officials who will still require Senate confirmation. The bill also designates another 200 nominations for expedited consideration under a "privileged" process in which nominees would be automatically confirmed after submitting paperwork unless a senator raises an objection. Schumer said that group will consist of officials named to part-time boards and commissions.

Alexander noted that the bill would still leave the Senate with power over more nominations than it had as recently as the Clinton administration, and four times more than under President Kennedy, due to a gradual expansion of jobs requiring Senate confirmation.

"We've ended up confirming people we have no business confirming -- people who [are] P.R. officers, people who are financial information people -- and we've made it difficult for the government to be staffed," Alexander said.

Executive nominees currently face what is widely seen as a dizzying amount of paperwork. They undergo background checks before confirmation by Senate committees with their own processes. The bill would create a working group to recommend ways of streamlining confirmations, including possible creation of a single form that would be used throughout a nominee's confirmation process.

The bill was initially drafted with Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine. Alexander said the bill has "broad bipartisan support" from "many chairmen and ranking members."

Schumer said the Rules Committee will act "very soon" on a resolution after which the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will mark it up. He added that committee chairs may also add to the list of nominations that would now not require confirmation before the bill reaches the floor.