Rule change no longer shields Cabinet staff from losing their jobs
By Ezra Klein
Published: Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, 7:24 p.m.
One important effect of the change in the Senate rules: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius now can be fired.
Also eligible for being fired: Marilyn Tavenner, director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; Attorney General Eric Holder; Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel; and Secretary of State John Kerry. Or really any political appointee.
That's not to say any of them will be fired. But the constant use of the filibuster against political appointments made it extraordinarily difficult for the White House to fire anyone because it didn't know whether it was able to appoint a replacement. Or if a replacement was made, who Republicans would accept. And the more political controversy there was around an issue, the more dangerous a personnel change became.
The scenario became a standard excuse for why no one is losing their job over the HealthCare.gov debacle: Firing any of the appointees in charge would just trigger a disastrous confirmation process that would leave the agency rudderless and chaotic for months — and possibly for the remainder of President Obama's term.
Simultaneously, the change in rules makes it far easier to hire new people.
The confirmation process was so difficult — and, because of that, the vetting process so intense — that top prospects routinely turned the offers down.
Christopher Hill, who served as ambassador to Iraq, described it vividly:
“Today, any nominee to a position requiring Senate confirmation can expect to spend many hours listing past places of residence; attaching tax returns; detailing family members' campaign contributions; and answering questions about the employment of domestic help or gardening services and whether such employees were legal, tax-paying U.S. residents. The vetting process will even go back to one's teenage years — all to ensure that anything that the Senate's own investigators can find is known before the nomination is formally submitted.”
After all that, the nominee often have would put their life on hold for months or years as the Senate worked through the obstruction — and, sometimes, the nomination would end in defeat.
Klein is a columnist at the Washington Post, focusing on domestic and economic policymaking.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Obama administration delays decision on Keystone XL pipeline
- Wyatt Earp gun sells for $225K at auction
- Denver wife killed 12 minutes into 911 call, sparking inquiry
- Scientists achieve cloning advance for use in treating diseases
- Social Security drops debts older than 10 years
- Drought uncovers fatal crash scene
- Obama, House Republicans trade accusations in thwarting immigration reform
- Tea Party flap averted fraud probe by IRS, Justice, emails show
- Obamacare estimates beaten by 1M
- Imam’s influence detailed as NYC terror trial begins
- Law firm that cleared Christie recently gave $10K to GOP governors group