Thompson Announces Victory on Law to Enforce Advice and Consent of the Senate

Washington, DC — Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred Thompson (R-TN) today announced that the fiscal year 1999 Omnibus Appropriations bill, passed by the House yesterday and the Senate today, contains the language of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. Thompson authored this legislation with Senators Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Strom Thurmond (R-SC) to enforce the Senate’s Constitutional role in appointing important federal officials.

Twenty percent of administration officials serving today are acting officers who serve without Senate confirmation. A president fills 320 positions in the Executive Branch which require Senate confirmation. Of those, 64 are currently held by acting officials. More important, of the 64 positions, 43 are held by officials who have held the job in an acting capacity for longer than is permitted under the Vacancies Act passed in 1868 and revised in 1988.

“This is a good day for the Constitution,” Thompson said. “Under the Administration’s view, the entire set of confirmed officials in our government could resign the day after they were confirmed, and acting officials who have not received the advice and consent of the Senate could run the government indefinitely. That situation is completely at odds with the constitutional system the framers created to protect individual liberty.

“Our democracy rests on a balance of power between the branches of government, and this legislation will help restore Congress to its proper role in the appointment of federal officials.”

Thompson’s legislation lengthens the time an acting official can serve from the current 120 days to 210 days, triggers the 210-day clock the day the vacancy occurs, and allows an acting official to continue to serve beyond the 210-day deadline only if the president has formally submitted a nomination for the position to the Senate.

The bill also creates an enforcement mechanism for the Vacancies Act by stipulating that if the president has not submitted a nomination within 210 days, an acting official may no longer serve, and all duties and responsibilities of the vacant office — other than heads of agencies — may only be performed by the head of that particular agency.

Attached are Thompson’s remarks on the Senate floor on September 28, when he led floor debate on this legislation.