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Congress Should Swap Out Areas of Interference

List of presidential appointments from 1789

Reposted from my Tumblr blog:


On August 3, 1789, President George Washington sent to the Senate a list of nominees to be port collectors. The name of each nominee appear next to each position with a note on the outcome of the Senate’s vote. “Aye” is written next to each name but Benjamin Fishbourn. Fishbourn was the first presidential nominee to be rejected by the Senate, and the event marked the beginning of the custom of senatorial courtesy—a tradition which continues today.

This tradition holds that the Senate may reject a nominee who is not supported by the nominee’s home state senators. It encourages the President to engage the Senate in the “advice” part of the nomination process, as well as the “consent” part.

Nomination of Port Collectors, including the nomination of Benjamin Fishbourn, 8/3/1789, SEN1B-A1, Records of the U.S. Senate

Very early, we began the process of giving the Senate disproportionate power over Presidential appointments. While I firmly believe in Senate confirmation of Presidential appointments, the way things have evolved is that a single senator may prevent someone from being appointed at all. Then if someone manages to be appointed, a single Senator can place a hold on the nominee and prevent a vote. Other rules ensure that if a nominee ever comes to a vote, it will take 60 votes to confirm them.

This is bad. As it allows small minorities to hamstring an administration while allowing the President to deflect responsibility for his governance onto Congress.

At the same time, Congress over the years have stood by while Presidents have usurped the power to declare war and waste our national blood and treasure on conflicts where neither our freedom nor our way of life were threatened.

We would be better off if Congress were willing to hamstring the administration on war and allow simple up and down votes on nominees of the President’s chooing.

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