Around this point in Barack Obama’s first term the Senate had received more than four hundred and fifty nominees from the White House. Donald Trump has sent just over two hundred nominees to the Senate – less than half as many. That frustrates Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress, including Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney.
“So it’s moving very slowly, and it always moves slowly at the beginning of a new administration. I think that this is more slowly than it should be. And I think that it’s really important because frankly what happens when the new appointees aren’t in place, you end up with holdovers from the last administration making a lot of key decisions.”
Wyoming Senator John Barrasso says many of the openings are important in the West.
“For us in Wyoming, key issues, the Bureau of Land Management, the Director of Fish and Wildlife, the National Parks Service director. Those names that have not yet come out of the White House, I'm anxious to get them through the confirmation hearings and then to the floor of the Senate for votes. I would have liked to have had them to be in office by now.”
Barrasso says some of the blame for the stalled nominees lies with Democrats.
“The nomination process has been significantly delayed by Democrats with their obstruction on the floor of the United States Senate.”
Democrats don’t like that people like Barrasso and the president are trying to paint their party as obstructionists. They gladly take that mantle for slowing his legislative agenda, but when it comes to nominees – Pennsylvania Democrat Brendan Boyle says they want the government to function better, even if that means filling it with more conservatives.
“He’ll attempt to blame Democrats, he’ll attempt to blame Congress. The reality is this administration has been slower than any other, to even make nominations to these very important positions.”
New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell worries the administration may be trying to use a back door way to cut the federal workforce by not filling the more than three hundred and fifty empty positions in the administration that have yet to even see a nominee. He also suspects the White House is leaving key positions empty to exert more control over federal departments.
“And he cannot resuscitate this, if it’s his pattern and this is what he wants to do. Maybe to save a few dollars. Maybe not to have the involvement of too many people in the inner sanctum. The inner sanctum is killing them. The inner sanctum is literally killing his agenda, which has been total discombobulated,” Pascrell says.
Each week it seems nominees either drop out of consideration or pull their name out of the ring before they’re even formally announced. Pascrell the more that happens, the tougher it is to recruit new nominees.
“So I could see a lot of people wanting to keep an arms distance. And you’re going to see a lot of them more and more.”
Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi disagrees. He says the president has put in place a great team and he expects it to only get better.
“One of the things that they're doing that is unlike what I've seen before, is they're getting people with experience in the area that they're doing it. Not academicians who have studied what to do in the area, but have never actually done it. There's a real difference with actually solving the problem, and doing it on a regular basis, and doing a bunch of theorizing on it.”
Enzi also says others are more than willing to join up.
“The President's run a lot of businesses, he didn't run any of those himself. He hired good people to run it. That's exactly what he's doing here. Of course, I have a little bit of a theory on his Tweets too, which is to distract people so that the secretaries can actually do their work. And it’s working.”
The White House is trying to pressure Democrats into quickly bringing up the remaining nominees that the Senate has yet to consider when they return to Washington this fall. That still leaves more than three hundred and fifty posts with no nominee of the more than five hundred and seventy that require Senate confirmation.