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Senate Takes on IMF on Nominations Bill

The Senate offered a subtle rebuke of the International Monetary Fund through a series of amendment votes Wednesday, just a day after French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde was named chief and weeks after its former head was arrested on sexual assault charges.

In the process of approving a bill that would eliminate formal Senate approval of nearly 170 nominees, the Senate voted to maintain the chamber’s authority to confirm U.S. representatives to the IMF, but stopped short of prohibiting the U.S. from making loans to the IMF.

The defunding measure, sponsored by tea party champion Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), fell on party lines, 44-55, but the Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) amendment to continue Senate review of IMF governors was approved by voice vote. Without the Toomey amendment, the underlying bill would have ended the Senate’s oversight of IMF appointees.

“At a time when Greece and Europe are drowning in debt, the Senate cannot afford to cede its confirmation authority on key IMF officials responsible for overseeing billions of dollars in funds,” Toomey said.

The overall legislation is aimed at streamlining a nomination process often exploited for political maneuvering, and the 79-20 vote for passage was a rare bipartisan win for Senators who have approved only a handful of consequential bills this Congress.

The measure is part of a reform process that began in January and could provide relief in the future to the administration’s struggle to fill government posts. Senate leaders also hope it will free up the chamber to move more legislation. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both supported the effort to alter the rules.

Rules and Administration Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) praised the bill Wednesday just moments before votes began.

“The backup of nominations … gridlocks other important legislative business. And that’s why the Senate, often known as the cooling saucer, has become like a subzero freezer,” Schumer said. “The less time committees have to spend on nominees, the more time they can spend working toward improving the lives of everyday American people.”

So far this year, the Senate has been slow to confirm President Barack Obama’s nominees, leaving hundreds of vacancies throughout the federal government. In addition to affecting formal confirmation of officials across the government, the bill would simplify the appointment and promotion of approximately 2,800 uniformed officers in the Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It also would streamline the confirmation process of other nominees, creating a working group to review and recommend changes to the Senate.

Notably, the legislation would eliminate the required confirmation of public affairs officials for many key government agencies. Formal votes on assistant secretaries for public affairs or Congressional relations in the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, State and the Treasury and Veteran Affairs no longer would be held.

Outside of reducing the volume of administration officials needing Congressional approval, the bill also would create five-year fixed terms for the Director of the Census, aligning with the decennial process and trying to depoliticize a process that significantly affects the electoral map.

If passed by the House and signed into law, the reform would take effect 60 days after enactment and pertain to nominations made on or after that date.

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