Mov­ing for­ward on an im­por­tant nom­i­na­tion

Con­firm­ing Kevin Has­sett to chair the Coun­cil of Eco­nomic Ad­vis­ers is pru­dent and nec­es­sary

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By John R. Lott, Jr.

Even if the Sen­ate votes for con­fir­ma­tion on the very day that it re­turns from re­cess, a record 112 days will have passed since Pres­i­dent Trump nom­i­nated Kevin Has­sett to chair the Coun­cil of Eco­nomic Ad­vis­ers. Since 1980, the av­er­age time to con­firm other Coun­cil chair­men is 25 days. For in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tions, the av­er­age con­fir­ma­tion pe­riod is 13 days. The long­est was 25 days.

A world-rec­og­nized ex­pert on tax­a­tion, Mr. Has­sett has been stuck on the side­lines de­spite the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s big goals this year on tax re­form. Mr. Has­sett is the one per­son who can help make the dif­fer­ent parts of a tax bill fit to­gether and can ex­plain it to the me­dia.

White House chief eco­nomic ad­vi­sor Gary Cohn has re­port­edly told as­so­ciates that time is run­ning out for tax re­form. He wor­ries that if tax re­form doesn’t get done by the end of the year, it likely won’t hap­pen at all. Miss­ing key play­ers such as Mr. Has­sett doesn’t help. And Democrats are threat­en­ing to de­lay Mr. Has­sett’s vote much longer.

The de­lay re­flects only Democrats’ un­will­ing­ness to con­firm any Trump nom­i­nees. Mr. Has­sett is not a con­tro­ver­sial pick.

The Sen­ate Bank­ing Com­mit­tee eas­ily ad­vanced Mr. Has­sett’s nom­i­na­tion in June, with only El­iz­a­beth War­ren, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat, op­pos­ing. Other lib­eral Democrats such as Sher­rod Brown, Ohio, Jack Reed Rhode Is­land, Robert Menedez, New Jersey and Brian Schatz, Hawaii, all voted in Mr. Has­sett’s fa­vor. Ac­cord­ing to or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the AFL-CIO, the League of Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers and Amer­i­cans for Demo­cratic Ac­tion, these sen­a­tors have per­fect or near-per­fect lib­eral vot­ing records.

Forty-four prom­i­nent econ­o­mists, lib­eral Democrats and con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans alike, who know Mr. Has­sett, signed a let­ter sup­port­ing his con­fir­ma­tion. It read, “While the sign­ers of this let­ter hold a range of views on Pres­i­dent Trump’s poli­cies, we all be­lieve that the for­mu­la­tion of eco­nomic pol­icy would be ad­vanced by the anal­y­sis and ad­vice that Dr. Has­sett would bring to the ta­ble.”

They also noted Mr. Has­sett’s “record of se­ri­ous schol­ar­ship.” The sign­ers in­cluded all of the Coun­cil chair­men to serve un­der Pres­i­dent Obama (Ja­son Fur­man, Alan Krueger, Christina Romer, Aus­tan Gools­bee) as well as some of Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s (Laura Tyson, Martin Baily).

Not a sin­gle nom­i­na­tion for this po­si­tion has ever taken any­where near as long as Mr. Has­sett’s. Some of the re­spon­si­bil­ity lies with the ad­min­is­tra­tion, but Democrats have done ev­ery­thing in their power to de­lay con­fir­ma­tion of Mr. Trump’s nom­i­nees. De­mand­ing clo­ture fil­ings for ev­ery sin­gle nom­i­nee, no mat­ter how un­con­tro­ver­sial, means two days of de­bate be­fore clo­ture can even be voted on. Then, after clo­ture, there is an ad­di­tional 30 hours of de­bate.

So far, only 44 per­cent of Mr. Trump’s nom­i­nees have been con­firmed. At this point in their ad­min­is­tra­tions, Mr. Obama had 57 per­cent of his nom­i­nees con­firmed, Ge­orge W. Bush 71 per­cent, and Bill Clin­ton 75 per­cent. And the low con­fir­ma­tion rate isn’t be­cause the sys­tem is clogged up with an ex­ces­sive num­ber of nom­i­nees. Mr. Trump has made just 279 nom­i­na­tions, whereas Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush had both made 414.

Un­til he is con­firmed, Mr. Has­sett can’t start fill­ing po­si­tions un­der him. In­deed, the Coun­cil is still staffed by Obama ap­pointees who are hos­tile to Mr. Trump’s poli­cies. Mr. Trump hasn’t had the ben­e­fit of putting his own econ­o­mists to work on health­care, ed­u­ca­tion, the en­vi­ron­ment and in­fra­struc­ture. Oth­ers in the White House have had to do the re­search and anal­y­sis that would nor­mally be done by the Coun­cil.

Mr. Trump runs a smaller, more ef­fi­cient ship. First lady Me­la­nia Trump has a staff of just 4 peo­ple. Michelle Obama had a staff of 22. Laura Bush and Hil­lary Clin­ton had staffs of 18 and 19 peo­ple, re­spec­tively. The whole Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is mak­ing do with less, but the Democrats still won’t let the pres­i­dent fill ba­sic po­si­tions.

With par­tial Oba­macare re­peal fail­ing, get­ting tax re­form ac­com­plished be­comes even more cru­cial to the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Many lib­eral econ­o­mists en­dorsed Mr. Has­sett be­cause he has a long his­tory of reach­ing out to work with them. They know him as an in­tel­li­gent per­son who cares about get­ting poli­cies right, not about par­ti­san grudges. Demo­cratic sen­a­tors, on the other hand, are en­gag­ing in rank par­ti­san­ship by de­lay­ing so many qual­i­fied and un­con­tro­ver­sial nom­i­nees. If Democrats want any­one to be­lieve that they care about bi-par­ti­san­ship, it’s time to at least con­firm Kevin Has­sett.

ILLUSTRATION BY HUNTER

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