President Obama signed the the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act last week, which has been hailed as a bipartisan step forward towards making the Senate function more effectively. However, the law, which permanently exempts 169 appointed posts in government from Senate confirmation, is not a cure for the constant delay and gridlock in that chamber. Instead, it’s just a symptom.

The positions now subject to presidential appointment only range from public affairs officials in a number of cabinet departments to the Treasurer of the United States, the functionary whose signature appears on every dollar bill, to all ten members of the National Institute for Literacy Advisory Board.

These are not exactly the most crucial positions in government and the new law should allow the Senate more time to focus on examining nominees for more important positions that are currently vacant. But that may give the Senate too much credit.

The 169 positions being removed from the Senate confirmation process are relatively anodyne. After all, the Administrator of the St Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation is not exactly a major Washington powerbroker. But, if the Senate couldn’t get these posts filled, it’s not a good sign for confirming nominees for far more important positions like judgeships. But, in the meantime, it does spare Washington from a major confirmation battle over St Lawrence Seaway Development and that’s worth something.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Ben Jacobs

Follow Ben on Twitter @bencjacobs. Ben Jacobs is a journalist based in Washington, D.C. His work has been published in New York, The Atlantic, The Guardian, and numerous other publications.