Center Blog

Nominate Early and Nominate Often

Seventy-one Percent of Pre-recess Nominations Confirmed by August


January 20, 2016

Dan Hyman, Partnership for Public Service


Getting critical leadership in place quickly is a huge marker for a new president’s success. We’ve been researching previous administrations to tease out strategies that will help the incoming administration be ready to govern on day one.

Let’s start by taking a look at the chart below. The Center for Presidential Transition and the Boston Consulting Group studied the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations and their confirmation rates for new presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed (PAS) officials. During the first 50 days, the total number of appointees confirmed tracked closely to the numbers nominated. After the April Senate break, the rates of nomination and confirmation began to diverge sharply. By the end of the administration’s first 100 days, nominations were growing at a steady clip while confirmations largely plateaued.

By the August Senate recess, 119 of President Bush’s 413 top nominees had not been confirmed, while 124 of President Obama’s 435 nominees were still awaiting Senate approval.

This chart contains two critical lessons for the next administration to consider when making PAS appointments.

  • First, expect a staggered pace of Senate confirmations. With history as a guide, the rate of confirmations will likely slow after the April Senate break and tail off soon after.
  • Second, with a pre-August recess confirmation rate of 71 percent, the next administration will have to submit 570 nominees to reach the goal of having the top 400 PAS nominees confirmed in the first 200 days.

The absence of key officials due to a delayed confirmation process has real consequences for the nation’s prosperity and security. The next president and Congress must work together and commit to confirming 400 PAS nominees by the August congressional recess.

To reach that ambitious goal, presidential candidates must start by selecting and vetting prospective nominees as early as possible and by nominating leadership teams (secretary, deputy secretary, general counsel, under and assistant secretaries) rather than individuals. They need to work with the Senate to ensure the top 100 PAS nominees are confirmed immediately after Inauguration Day. Additionally, the new team should submit nominations to the Senate at a steady rate over the first 200 days, submitting about 570 to yield 400 confirmations.

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