Washington, DC – Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Fred Thompson (R?TN) and Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman today introduced the Presidential Appointments Improvement Act, legislation intended to correct 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 intended to help break the logjam caused by the often lengthy and burdensome appointment process,” said Senator Thompson. “One of the keys to a successful administration is getting the President’s people in place. Democracy is ill?served when the President’s ability to carry out this task is hampered by a reluctance on the part of talented men and women to serve and by unnecessary delays in confirming nominees. This legislation is an important step in improving the appointment process.”
“The legislation we’re introducing today will reduce some of the financial disclosure burdens placed on high?level, executive branch nominees, without reducing the information necessary to determine potential conflicts of interest, and without sacrificing the important principle of the public’s right to know,” Lieberman said. “It is our hope that passage of this legislation will encourage our best and brightest to look more favorably upon government service than they have in recent years and to lend their knowledge and skills to what I have always thought was one of the highest callings a person could follow.”
The measure, intended to reduce the complexity of the forms required of nominees, 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 hearings on the subject this Spring. 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.