Senate Votes to Streamline Nominations

Posted June 29, 2011 at 6:26pm

The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a bill to simplify a nominations process often exploited for political maneuvering.

The 79-20 vote for passage was a rare bipartisan win for Senators who have approved only a handful of consequential bills this Congress. It also served as a Senate endorsement of the “gentleman’s agreement” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reached earlier this year in an attempt to unclog the chamber’s calendar and reduce partisan sparring.

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

“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. The measure would eliminate formal Senate approval of nearly 170 nominees. It also would streamline the confirmation process of other nominees by creating a working group to review and recommend changes to the Senate.

As part of the debate, the Senate also offered a subtle rebuke of the International Monetary Fund through a series of amendment votes. The Senate voted to maintain the chamber’s authority to confirm U.S. representatives to the IMF, but it stopped short of prohibiting the U.S. from making loans to the IMF.

Those votes came just one day after French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde was named the new chief of the IMF and weeks after its former head was arrested on sexual assault charges.

The defunding measure, sponsored by tea party champion Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), fell on party lines, 44-55, but an amendment offered by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to continue Senate review of IMF governors was approved by voice vote.

“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.