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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

by Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services haven’t had a Senate-confirmed administrator since 2006. The Federal Labor Relations Authority has had only a single member since January and can’t issue decisions. And the Election Assistance Commission hasn’t had any commissioners at all since 2011.

All presidential administrations have vacancies. But an analysis of appointments data by ProPublica shows that President Obama hasn’t kept up with his predecessors in filling them. A greater share of presidentially appointed positions that require Senate confirmation were sitting vacant at the end of Obama’s first term than at the end of Bill Clinton’s or George W. Bush’s first terms.

At least 68 of the positions remain vacant, including 43 that have been vacant for more than a year.

The vacancies have been spread across dozens of different departments and agencies, with some hit harder than others.  At the Department of the Interior, for instance, six of its 18 appointed positions were vacant at the end of Obama’s first term. The department had three vacancies midway through Clinton’s presidency and only one midway through Bush’s.

The lack of appointed leaders can create problems. Too many vacancies can put agencies “in stand-down, waiting for policymakers to show up,” said Terry Sullivan, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina who has studied appointments.

Acting heads of agencies “don’t make any big decisions,” said Cal Mackenzie, a professor of government at Colby College who has studied appointments since the 1970s. “Your authority is not going to be recognized in the same way a Senate-confirmed appointee is going to be recognized.”

Overall, more than 13 percent of presidentially appointed positions hadn’t been filled at the end of Obama’s first term, compared with around 10 percent for Bush and 11 percent for Clinton. While the uptick compared with the Bush administration may sound small, it translates into dozens more vacant positions.

The data comes from the Plum Book, a directory of federal appointees released every four years. (We started looking at the data after it was flagged by the New York Times’ Derek Willis.) The data doesn’t include the vast majority of judicial appointments, for which vacancies have also risen under Obama.

The White House’s Office of Presidential Personnel didn’t respond to a request for comment.

So who’s to blame for the unfilled positions?

“I think President Obama bears some responsibility and the Senate bears some responsibility,” said Anne Joseph O’Connell, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, whose research shows that Obama filled fewer positions in departments and executive agencies in his first year in the White House than any of the last four presidents.

Obama has been slower to make appointments, she said, and the Senate slower to confirm them.

Republicans have increasingly created roadblocks for nominees.

For instance, Senate Republicans blocked Obama’s nominees to the Election Assistance Commission — an agency charged with aiding voting that House Republicans voted to get rid of in 2011.

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  • Michael Kollmorgen

    Sure, its the Republican’s way of quashing whatever legal power Obama and his administration has.

    They have been doing everything they can to paint Obama as a failed leader since he got first elected.

    Sorry, it ain’t happening!

  • SCREW the House Unrepresentative and the Sanitation of the United states until they actually do their goddamned jobs.

  • The GOP is determined to undermine the President at every opportunity. If slowing up appointments can cause damage to the agencies…so much the better. Shameful indeed, not to mention just plain stupid.

  • nobsartist

    Once again, silence from the President.

    • Michael Kollmorgen

      He might be just letting the Republicans hang themselves.

      Besides, if he complains too much about it, people will think he’s a crybaby. He can’t put himself in that type of situation. If anything, if nothing can get done the way it should be getting done, all he’s got to say is “they did it”, which they would have.

      You know, sometimes, silence can be golden.

  • The ONLY answer …

    • Michael Kollmorgen

      Well Dan, I used to think at one time that was a good idea. No more though.

      Say for instance, you place a one-term term on any elected official, what would happen, these elected officials will not be held accountable for the things they do. Once the damage is done, it’s done, extremely hard to reverse. They will not need to face any repercussions from their actions.

      At least if they have the possibility of being elected more than once, they will do supposedly what the people want. And, if they screw up the first time around, the second time around will surely spell their demise – hopefully.

      Actually, I don’t see the need for Congress on a federal level at all anymore. We probably don’t need anymore elected officials on a state, maybe not even the local level either.

      With the advancements in communication, the Internet, we could be able to decide all of these issues totally ourselves if we honestly wanted to using some from of ID – voting on these issues from our homes.

      This to me is democracy as it should have been all along. Representative form of government? – send it to HELL where it belongs. It was useful at one time, but no longer.

  • m8lsem

    Unless Obama cedes the appointment power to the Republican caucus in the Senate, nothing is going to happen. It’s that simple and perverse.

  • charleo1

    Just part of an overall campaign by the Republican Party, that refuses to respect the choices
    of the Democratic voters. Whether, it’s claiming Democratic voters are not casting their ballots
    for the good of the Country. But are just voting themselves, “Free stuff.” To asserting Democrats
    stuff the ballot box by promoting, and allowing the non citizens to vote multiple times. Or, the
    idea that Democrats use the tax money collected by the Government, to buy elections, has been
    repeated so often in Republican circles, most Conservatives have come to view this as an
    unchallenged fact. So thereby, the representatives elected by the Left, and especially our choice
    for President, are illegitimate. And so it follows, amongst Conservatives, and particularly
    among the crop of ultra Conservatives, there is no reason to treat a majority formed in this way
    with any respect whatsoever. And it is this disrespect, came to by this reasoning, upon which they base their rhetoric, and actions. In short, over the past 20 years or so, the hate mongers have
    poisoned their followers. And to disastrous effect for the Country. Collectively, they have promoted
    cynicism, mistrust, absolutism, and a call to purge those not in unquestioning agreement, by the questioning of their very loyalty, or their devotion to the Country. It has been business as usual,
    to demonize this President. And punish anyone who dares to heed the President’s call to enjoin
    him in working on, or toward solutions of the Country’s pressing issues. No, they, the nihilists,
    and contrarians, have decided it is a dividing of the unity America, that must be done.
    The idea that more than half of the citizens living in this Country are no longer entitled to democratic representation. But must be ruled until further notice by it’s minority, for it’s own
    good, is one hell of a God awful way, to run a democracy.

  • Republican obstructionism has resulted in wrecking the machinery of government on a daily basis and can, even to this voter, be construed as

    1. dereliction of duty – hence perjuring their congressional oaths of office;
    2.denying all Americans their Constitutional Rights to a working government;

    Other than our POPULAR JURY convening for the 2014 Congressional Elections, what other court can we address with our grievances – since the treasonous party in Congress has already packed the Supreme Court with its partisan hacks?

  • Ed

    The Repubs are trying to govern, they reefuse to admit they lost the election.

  • RobertCHastings

    I seem to recall a Republican Senator from North Carolina named Jesse Helms who held up over twenty Clinton Federal judiciary appointments by himself. Clinton had the same problems with the conservatives in Congress that Obama is having, except Clinton never had to deal with ultra-conservatives like Bachman and the other tea partiers, although Ron Paul was in Congress during the Clinton years.

  • Mikey7a

    I’m only concerned with one or two appointments our President might get to make. I’m hoping that at least two of the Supreme Court Justices retire during the next four years.