I had a very interesting exchange with a gentleman on Twitter a few days ago. We were talking about ways that Congress could exert greater influence over the executive branch. I have been thinking about this almost constantly since then. As a result of this, I’ve begun developing an idea that I think could lead to not only greater over sight of the executive but also guarantee bipartisan support of every presidential cabinet. I think we should reverse the nomination process for cabinet level positions.
The way our system works right now an incoming president nominates individuals and then the senate is required to confirm them. This has been a system that has worked fairly well for us since it’s inception. This is partly because historically presidents have more or less gotten everyone they wanted. Occasionally a very contenious nominee will get denied. This is a trend that has been increasing over time. I can see a near future where cabinet confirmations take a whole year at the least and several positions take numerous nominees to get a candidate through. There is a way to prevent this.
The senate already has committees that all roughly correspond to all of the cabinet level positions. These committees are all roughly bipartisan. So my proposal is this. The committees select and vote on three to five nominees for the relevant cabinet position corresponding roughly to the subject matter of their committee. Once these officials have passed the committee the president can select whichever approved nominee he would like and they are then in the cabinet. No further vote required.
I believe this to be a good solution for multiple reasons. First is the previously mentioned bipartisanship. If you require say a two thirds majority of the committee to approve the nominees this would mean by the sheer reality of numbers that while the majority party may get more influence in the process, you must also be able to win over at least a couple votes from the minority party. Second by leaving this process solely with the committees you empower the senator’s on them even more. By empowering the senate like this, you can more or less strong arm the executive in to matching it’s agenda more closely to the legislature. Thirdly, this makes committee appointments in the senate even more significant. While they are always important, it puts more strategetic thinking on the senate leadership and forces them to consider loyalty and thoughtfulness.
This is an idea that is still in development. I intend to keep refining it. I really believe however that there is no downside to this, provided that there be a provision to force the senate committees to make this the first order of business for each new senate. I would love to hear feed back from any and all of you about this proposal. It is important that we keep refining and improving, not expanding, our government and this could be a good first step. Thank you.