S. 679: Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011

S. 679

Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011

Sponsor
Sen. Charles E. Schumer

Date
July 31, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, July 31, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider S. 679, the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval. S. 679 was introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on March 30, 2011, and was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  The Senate approved S. 679 on June 29, 2012 by a vote of 79 – 20.

Bill Summary

S. 679 would eliminate the requirement of Senate approval (advice and consent) of specified presidentially-appointed positions in federal agencies and departments, including the following:

  • Department of Agriculture: (1) Assistant Secretary for Administration, (2) Administrator of the Rural Utilities Services, and (3) all members of the Board of Directors of the Commodity Credit Corporation;
  • Department of Commerce: Chief Scientist, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA);
  • Department of Defense (DOD): (1) all members of the National Security Education Board, and (2) Director of the Selective Service System;
  • Department of Education: (1) Assistant Secretary for Management, and (2) Commissioner for Education Statistics;
  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs;
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS): (1) Director of the Office for Domestic Preparedness, (2) Assistant Administrator for Grant Programs, Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), (3) Administrator of the U.S. Fire Administration, (4) Director of the Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement, (5) Chief Medical Officer, and (6) Assistant Secretaries for Health Affairs, Legislative Affairs, and Public Affairs;
  • Housing and Urban Development (HUD): Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs;
  • Department of Justice (DOJ): (1) Directors of the Bureaus of Justice Statistics and Justice Assistance, (2) Director of the National Institute of Justice, (3) Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and (4) Director of the Office for Victims of Crime;
  • Department of Labor: (1) Assistant Secretaries for Administration and Management and for Public Affairs, and (2) Director of the Women's Bureau;
  • Department of State: Assistant Secretaries for Public Affairs and for Administration;
  • Department of Transportation (DOT): (1) Assistant Secretaries for Budget and Programs and for Administration, (2) Deputy Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and (3) Administrator of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation;
  • Department of the Treasury: (1) Assistant Secretaries for Public Affairs and for Management, and (2) Treasurer of the United States;
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): Assistant Secretaries for Management, for Human Resources and Administration, for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, and for Operations, Security, and Preparedness;
  • Appalachian Regional Commission: Alternative Federal Co-Chairman;
  • Council of Economic Advisers: all members, except the Chairperson;
  • Corporation for National and Community Service: Managing Director;
  • National Council on Disability: all members, including the Chairperson;
  • National Museum and Library Services Boards: all members;
  • National Science Foundation (NSF): all Board members;
  • Office of National Drug Control Policy: Deputy Directors;
  • Office of Navajo and Hopi Relocation: Commissioner;
  • United States Agency for International Development (USAID): Assistant Administrator for Management;
  • Community Development Financial Institution Fund: Administrator;
  • Mississippi River Commission: all Commissioners;
  • National Board for Education Sciences: all members;
  • National Institute for Literacy Advisory Board: all members; and
  • Board of Trustees of the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development: all members.

The bill would also eliminate the positions of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information and for Public Affair and eliminate the requirement of Senate approval of all appointments to and promotions for the Commissioned Officer Corps in the Public Health Service and in NOAA.

S. 679 would prohibit the legislation from resulting in any such position being placed in the Senior Executive Service or altering compensation for such position. The bill would expand the requirements for the appointment of a Director of the Census, including that such appointment be made without regard to political affiliation and that the appointee have a demonstrated ability in managing large organizations and experience in the collection, analysis, and use of statistical data.  The bill would limit the Director’s term to five years, beginning on December 1, 2012, and would prohibit a Director from serving more than two full terms.  S. 679 would authorize the President to remove the Director from office after communicating in writing the reasons for removal to Congress not later than 60 days before the removal.

S. 679 would establish the Working Group on Streamlining Paperwork for Executive Nominations (Working Group) to study and report to the President and specified congressional committees on the streamlining of paperwork required for executive nominations and review the impact of background investigations requirements on the appointments process.  The bill would require that the report of the Working Group include: (1) recommendations for the streamlining of paperwork required for executive nominations, and (2) a detailed plan for the creation and implementation of an electronic system for collecting and distributing background information from nominees for positions which require Senate approval.  S. 679 would also require that such electronic system provide for less of a burden on potential nominees for positions which require Senate approval, faster delivery of background information, fewer errors of omission, and a single, searchable form (Smart Form) that will be free to a nominee, will be easy to use, and will streamline the process of vetting a nominee and tracking information provided by a nominee.

S. 679 would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study and report to Congress and the President on presidentially-appointed positions that do not require Senate approval, and would make the provisions of this Act relating to Senate approval of presidential appointments effective 60 days after enactment and makes the other provisions effective upon enactment.

Background

The Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 would seek to reduce the burdens and improve the efficiency of the appointment process for executive branch officials.  It would do so by eliminating the requirement for Senate confirmation for over 200 executive branch positions for which the Committee has determined, based on the work of a leadership-commissioned Senate working group, that such confirmation is unnecessary.  The bill would also establish an executive branch working group to study and report on the streamlining of paperwork required for executive nominations and the impact of background investigation requirements on the appointments process.

Cost

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and based on information from federal entities involved in the appointment process, CBO estimates that implementing the bill would have no significant impact on the federal budget.  Enacting S. 679 would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.

S. 679 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal governments.

The bill would reduce the number of Presidential appointees requiring Senate confirmation from about 1,200 (excluding judges) to around 1,000. The legislation also would eliminate the statutory requirement that the Senate confirm several thousand commissioned officers of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

CBO expects that enacting the bill could reduce the workloads of certain federal employees; however, because those employees would probably be retained and assigned other tasks, CBO estimates that implementing the legislation would lead to a negligible reduction in spending subject to appropriation.

The legislation also would establish a working group to examine the process for conducting background investigations of Presidential appointees and study ways to streamline paperwork associated with the appointment process. Because the working group would be staffed by existing government employees and unpaid experts, CBO estimates that implementing this provision would have no significant cost.