Democrats slow to con­firm many Trump nom­i­nees

Pres­i­dent far be­hind on fill­ing Cabi­net, other high-level posts

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE BOYER

When the Se­nate con­firmed the nom­i­na­tion of Elaine Duke on Tues­day for deputy sec­re­tary of home­land se­cu­rity, it marked a rare suc­cess for Pres­i­dent Trump at get­ting his top peo­ple in­stalled in the hun­dreds of va­cant posts wait­ing to be filled across the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Mr. Trump still has three of his Cabi­net posts un­filled, and he is lag­ging far be­hind the pace of Pres­i­dent Obama in fill­ing other se­nior po­si­tions at the Pen­tagon, Jus­tice De­part­ment, State De­part­ment and other agen­cies.

The pres­i­dent has blasted Se­nate Democrats for slow­ing down the con­fir­ma­tion process, and Democrats have dragged their feet in many cases. But Mr. Trump has been slower than his pre­de­ces­sors in send­ing nom­i­na­tions to the Se­nate.

As of Sun­day, Mr. Trump had sub­mit­ted nom­i­na­tions to the Se­nate for 74 civil­ians to var­i­ous posts, in­clud­ing De­fense Sec­re­tary James N. Mat­tis and Court­ney El­wood for gen­eral coun­sel of the CIA. But 24 of those nom­i­na­tions have been with­drawn, leav­ing 50. The Se­nate has con­firmed 26 of them.

By the same point in 2009, Mr. Obama had nom­i­nated 130 civil­ians for Se­nate-con­firmable

po­si­tions and 40 had been con­firmed, ac­cord­ing to Se­nate records.

In 2001, Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush had sub­mit­ted 275 nom­i­na­tions by March 31, of which only 27 had been con­firmed by the Se­nate.

By the end of March, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion had sub­mit­ted 53 per­cent fewer nom­i­na­tions than the av­er­age of pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions, ac­cord­ing to the White House Tran­si­tion Project, which is funded by the Moody Foun­da­tion in co­op­er­a­tion with Rice Univer­sity’s Baker In­sti­tute for Pub­lic Pol­icy. Con­fir­ma­tions are run­ning 35 per­cent be­hind the av­er­age of pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions.

It means the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is more than three weeks be­hind pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions in get­ting its key peo­ple in­stalled to carry out the pres­i­dent’s agenda.

The project said vet­ting of can­di­dates by the ex­ec­u­tive branch is run­ning more than two weeks be­hind the av­er­age of pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions.

Mr. Trump also has sub­mit­ted less than half as many mil­i­tary nom­i­na­tions for pro­mo­tions in the armed ser­vice branches as did Mr. Obama in the same time frame.

Some ob­servers view the pres­i­dent’s slower pace of nom­i­na­tions as a re­sult of his “out­sider” sta­tus when he ar­rived in Wash­ing­ton.

“A tra­di­tional politi­cian has an army of peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­enced bat­tles to­gether and know each other and like and hate each other but all have con­nec­tions,” said pres­i­den­tial his­to­rian and au­thor Doug Wead. “They can help vet per­son­nel. So, is this a hand­i­cap? Yes. But this is the price we pay for get­ting some­one out­side of the cor­rupt sys­tem, some­one who will over­throw the ta­bles and break the dishes.”

The White House didn’t re­spond to re­quests for com­ment about the rea­sons for Mr. Trump’s slower pace of nom­i­na­tions. White House of­fi­cials have said that de­lays in the con­fir­ma­tion of Cabi­net sec­re­taries have led, in turn, to de­lays in de­part­ment heads’ hir­ings of deputy sec­re­taries, un­der­sec­re­taries and oth­ers.

White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer noted last week that many Demo­cratic law­mak­ers “made hay” sev­eral years ago with a com­ment by Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, that he wanted to make Mr. Obama a one-term pres­i­dent.

“I’ve seen a sim­i­lar tac­tic from Democrats now about how they want to de­feat him, they want to stop his agenda,” Mr. Spicer said. “And there’s no sense of them want­ing to work with this pres­i­dent. I think we have shown a will­ing­ness to bring them to­gether.”

Se­nate Democrats have de­layed con­fir­ma­tion votes for sev­eral of Mr. Trump’s nom­i­nees, such as Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Dan Coats, Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions. Mr. Trump is still await­ing con­fir­ma­tion for Cabi­net-level po­si­tions for agri­cul­ture sec­re­tary (Sonny Per­due), U.S. trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive (Robert Lighthizer) and la­bor sec­re­tary (Alex Acosta, nom­i­nated af­ter An­drew Puzder with­drew).

By con­trast, Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush had his full Cabi­net con­firmed by the first week of Fe­bru­ary 2001. Mr. Obama’s fi­nal Cabi­net nom­i­nee was con­firmed on his 10th week in of­fice.

In ad­di­tion to Mr. Puzder’s failed nom­i­na­tion, two other Trump nom­i­nees have backed out. Vin­cent Vi­ola with­drew from con­sid­er­a­tion for sec­re­tary of the Army, and Philip Bilden pulled out as nom­i­nee for sec­re­tary of the Navy, both be­cause of busi­ness en­tan­gle­ments.

Mr. Mat­tis, who has 52 ap­pointed po­si­tions to fill at the Pen­tagon, also has clashed with the White House over po­ten­tial ap­pointees. The de­fense sec­re­tary last month with­drew the name of re­tired diplo­mat Anne Pat­ter­son as his choice for un­der­sec­re­tary for pol­icy af­ter the White House balked at loom­ing op­po­si­tion in the Se­nate. Two Repub­li­can law­mak­ers on the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, Sens. Tom Cot­ton of Arkansas and Ted Cruz of Texas, op­posed her nom­i­na­tion be­cause she served as U.S. am­bas­sador to Egypt when the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion sup­ported an elected gov­ern­ment with ties to the Mus­lim Brother­hood.

In the State De­part­ment, for­mer Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial El­liott Abrams was re­jected by Mr. Trump for the No. 2 post af­ter the pres­i­dent learned that Mr. Abrams had crit­i­cized him dur­ing the cam­paign.

More than 480 other se­nior po­si­tions re­main with­out nom­i­na­tions, in­clud­ing deputy sec­re­taries to un­der­sec­re­taries whose du­ties nor­mally in­clude greater re­spon­si­bil­ity for day-to-day op­er­a­tions in the fed­eral bu­reau­cracy. Over­all, Mr. Trump has about 1,900 va­can­cies still to fill with po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees, most of which do not re­quire Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion.

In so-called crit­i­cal gov­ern­ment lead­er­ship po­si­tions, Mr. Trump and Se­nate Repub­li­cans have com­pleted only about 9 per­cent of the to­tal “nec­es­sary to ‘stand up’ the gov­ern­ment” as of March 31, the White House Tran­si­tion Project said.

“The Trump nom­i­na­tions for th­ese time-sen­si­tive po­si­tions (at 33) falls con­sid­er­ably be­low the ex­pec­ta­tion (53), while the Se­nate ma­jor­ity has con­firmed a bit more than half of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s nom­i­nees (19) while in the typ­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, pre­vi­ous Se­nates would have con­firmed more than dou­ble that num­ber or three-quar­ters of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s nom­i­nees (40 of 53),” the group said. “The cur­rent pace of nom­i­na­tions and con­fir­ma­tions con­tin­ues to put the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion more than 50 per­cent be­hind the av­er­age pace for fill­ing th­ese crit­i­cal jobs.”

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