Newspaper article Roll Call

Ornstein: Nominees Deserve Due Deference, Not Cheap Shots

Newspaper article Roll Call

Ornstein: Nominees Deserve Due Deference, Not Cheap Shots

Article excerpt

I am a firm believer in the advise and consent role of the Senate on important executive confirmations. A careful look at the qualifications, temperament, moral character and background of key officials is a good thing. It makes a president more careful when he considers nominations, it provides for an airing of policy positions and differences, and it enables senators to give messages to an administration about their expectations for implementation of policies and legislation they have enacted or oversee.

But an advise and consent power has to be exercised with responsibility. That means that senators ultimately give wide leeway to presidents to choose the people they want and trust in positions of authority. Reasonable standards should be employed on qualifications, temperament, moral character and background, but not manipulative attempts to exaggerate alleged negative qualities, to smear people who have put themselves out there for public service, not via reprehensible leaks of material from FBI background checks or anonymous sources.

It means that nominations should, in almost every instance, come to the Senate for up-or-down votes - not be killed stealthily in committee by sitting on them without confirmation hearings or without voting them out to the floor, not held anonymously or otherwise for months or longer because of the pique or hostage- taking propensity of individual lawmakers, not filibustered.

It means that when a Senate minority declares that it will not allow anyone, no matter their qualifications, to fill posts because the minority doesn"t like the law that authorizes or empowers the position - i.e., the tactic Thomas Mann defined as "the new Nullification,' applied to the heads of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services - it is way out of bounds.

We have a newly re-elected president, who won with a clear majority of national popular votes cast. He has selected his nominees for two of the four top Cabinet posts in his administration. And before any hearings, the long knives are already coming out against them.

I know former Sen. Chuck Hagel and Jacob J. …

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