Reducing Senate-Confirmed Positions

Focus Senate oversight on critical nominations

New presidents have 4,000 political appointments to make, more than 1,200 of which require Senate confirmation. The sheer number of jobs subject to confirmation makes it difficult for a president to fill and for the Senate to approve nominees in a timely manner. Lacking Senate-confirmed leaders can create challenges for federal agencies when developing and executing large-scale priorities that improve service delivery to the public. The problem is only getting worse: The number of positions requiring Senate confirmation has grown by at least 60% since 1960, and it takes longer on average to confirm nominees with each presidential administration.

The simplest way to address this problem would be to reduce the number of positions subject to Senate confirmation. The Senate can start by examining positions with long-standing vacancies that have layers of confirmed officials above them who are subject to oversight. The Senate also should consider eliminating the need to confirm some members of part-time boards and commissions, which now constitute 300 positions. A smaller group of positions requiring Senate confirmation will promote professional expertise, stability and accountability.