Even people who have heard of “Senate confirmation hearings” probably don’t really know what they are since schools don’t teach civics anymore.
Fortunately, there’s a Wikipedia definition nearby:
“Under the Appointments Clause of the United States Constitution and law of the United States, certain federal positions appointed by the president of the United States require confirmation (advice and consent) of the United States Senate.”
Termed “PAS” (Presidential Appointment needing Senate confirmation) positions, the United States Constitution is clear about how these jobs must be filled.
“Invoking cloture on presidential nominations currently requires a vote of a majority of Senators present and voting, or 51 votes if all 100 Senators vote.”
This is very important to understand: it takes 51 US State Senators to agree on a Presidential nominee for any PAS position. Why is this such a big deal?
For one thing, consider the sheer number of jobs we’re talking about here. As of 2012, somewhere between 1200 to 1400 positions required Senate confirmation, according to the CRS. That’s a lot of hiring interviews – or, in this case, committee meetings.
In February 2017, 549 PAS positions needed to be filled, as reported by Vox. Recently inaugurated President Donald Trump had hired 14 of them.
In March 2018, President Trump tweeted that hundreds of his PAS nominees “are being blocked and/or slow walked by the Democrats in the Senate. Many important positions in Government are unfilled because of this obstruction. Worst in U.S. history!”
Obstructing approval of presidential PAS position nominees is a very real power that US senators wield. Consider the case of Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo) who promised to obstruct Trump’s nominees “until the threat of federal prosecution no longer hung over the legal state-sanctioned cannabis industry.”
Indeed, Gardner held up around 20 Justice nominees.
The result? USA Today revealed that “before leaving the White House for the G-7 Summit, Trump told reporters he ‘probably will end up supporting’ the bill.”
Gardner and fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) introduced a new bipartisan bill recently. It is called, somewhat clumsily, the “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act.”
The pro-states-rights Senate bill has “an identical House counterpart sponsored by Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.”
If federal sanction of “Marijuana, the Assassin of Debt” (as this writer covered last year) is what it’s going to take to confirm all those hundreds of PAS candidates, perhaps we all need to simply suck it up. So to speak.