A New Era of Czars and Unaccountable Government

Americans understand the need for government accountability; after all, it is in our genes.  Unfortunately, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) are negotiating a deal that would embrace a new era of czars and unaccountable government.

At the behest of their respective party leaders, they are trying to find a way around the unwise filibuster “reform” impasse that has stymied the Senate for most of January.  That threat is now off the table, but as is typical for the Senate, another bad deal is in the works.  According to numerous reports, the deal would reduce the number of presidential nominees subjected to the Senate’s rigorous confirmation process.

The Associated Press reported “officials said that 100 posts or more” could be exempted; the New York Times said the deal “would exempt hundreds” of nominees; and, Bloomberg suggested confirmable positions may be “cut by as much as a third.”

Exact details remain unknown (despite potential for a vote later today) because the proposal remains hidden.

Given our sluggish economy and persistently high unemployment rate, it may be tempting to dismiss this as nothing more than an inside-the-beltway issue.

Two examples will illustrate what is at stake.

President Obama gave Philip Coyle a recess appointment after his nomination stalled last summer.  Coyle, now an associate director for the national security in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, is a noted missile defense critic.  After his nomination during the fall of 2009, Senators began asking tough questions, some of which Coyle failed to answer and his nomination stalled.

Jeffrey Goldstein also received a recess appointment last spring.  As the undersecretary of Treasury, Goldstein oversees the Financial Stability Office, which in turn oversees the $700 billion TARP program.  According to Bloomberg, Goldstein owned stock in several companies that received TARP funds, raising concerns and stalling his nomination.

In these instances, and many others, a close examination of a nominee reveals startling problems.  After the discovery of serious problems, the Senate rarely votes on a nominee.  In those instances, the Senate is providing a well-deserved check on executive power – a check that they now want to diminish.

Granting the executive branch, especially one so interested in legislating by regulation, more power and autonomy is counterintuitive.  And we all know that Washington needs more accountability, not less.

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