Committee Approves Thompson/Lieberman Bill To Streamline Presidential Appointment Process

Washington, DC – Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Fred Thompson (R-TN) and Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman today announced that the Committee has approved the Presidential Appointments Improvement Act, their legislation correcting problems of the presidential appointment process that have persistently posed barriers for individuals seeking public service and administration officials trying to fill high level Executive Branch appointments and nominations as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“This legislation is an important step in helping future administrations get their key people in place in a timely manner,” Senator Thompson said. “The Governmental Affairs Committee has taken steps to streamline requirements of appointees who come before us for confirmation, and we hope to help all Senate committees and the Executive Branch easily follow suit with the assistance of this legislation.”

“I’m pleased to have been able to collaborate with Senator Thompson on this measure, which will ease a number of burdens placed on presidential nominees, while strengthening certain forms of disclosure,” Senator Lieberman said. “ I hope, and believe, this bill will help encourage highly qualified people to enter the great tradition and very fulfilling profession of public service.”

The measure includes a number of recommendations submitted by the Administration in a report by the Office of Government Ethics. In addition to provisions to streamline the financial disclosure form, the bill includes provisions to: • Require a comprehensive review of and report on criminal conflict of interest statutes by the Office of Government Ethics and the Department of Justice; • Require each department and agency to recommend a plan for reducing the number and layers of political appointees requiring confirmation; • Require the Executive Clerk of the White House to keep an electronic database of Executive Branch-appointed positions and to deliver a copy of that database to the Presidential candidates following the nominating conventions; • Improve tracking of nominees’ agreements to take action, such as selling certain securities, in order to avoid conflicts of interest while in office; and • Improve public access to conflict of interest waivers.

Many of the bill’s provisions are based on recommendations made to the Congress by various groups, boards, and commissions that have studied the presidential appointment process, including the Presidential Appointee Initiative, the 20th Century Fund’s Task Force on the Presidential Appointment Process, the White House 2001 project, and the Transition to Governing project. The Hart-Rudman Commission also recommended improving the Presidential appointment process, writing that “[t]he ordeal that Presidential nominees are subjected to is now so great as to make it prohibitive for many individuals of talent and experience to accept public service.”

The Governmental Affairs Committee has studied the presidential appointment process for well over a year, holding numerous hearings on the subject. Other initiatives underway to streamline the process include reducing the complexity and duplication of forms required by Senate Committees and reducing the level of background investigation required of certain nominees.