Thursday, December 14, 2006

Integrity of Senate Confirmation Hearings

Recently the nominee for the office of UN ambassador resigned after a year waiting for an up or down vote to be confirmed. Integrity of the Senate confirmation hearings, in my opinion, is lacking. The committee is only responsible for asking questions of nominees regarding his/her qualifications for the position and duties of the office. Once these questions are completed the Senate must forward the nomination for a vote by the full Senate accepting or rejecting the nominee for a specific position. All nominees should be treated fairly by the Senate in their confirmation hearings. It is not the responsibility of the committee to determine the acceptance or rejection of a nominee. This action is the responsibility of the full Senate. The example of where the UN ambassador nominee never reached the full senate for a vote shows a lack of integrity or at the least the perception of this critical principle.

In my understanding of the process the President nominates people to various positions which must be confirmed by the Senate. The latest situation with the resignation of Mr. Bolton for the position of UN ambassador shows that the process must be changed. It is fitting to have senators from both parties ask specific questions relating to the duties of the position for which they are nominated. However, that is all the committee should do. It should be up to the full senate not the committee to make a determination of acceptability. Every person nominated for a position for which the senate must hold confirmation hearings has a right to have an up or down vote. The current situation with the present process does not provide a method to make sure that an up or down vote by the full senate is generated. This must be changed.
An example of the way senate confirmation hearings should take place is the confirmation by the full senate of the new Secretary of Defense. The senate held confirmation hearings and asked questions relating to the position. After the hearings were concluded the nomination was presented to the full senate which confirmed the new Secretary of Defense. In the case of the UN ambassador this did not take place and should have. I feel that party politics played a role in the UN ambassador nomination not being submitted for an up or down vote. We lose qualified individuals in positions as a result of confirmation hearings that only ask questions and does not present the nominee for a full senate vote.

In summary the confirmation hearings that are presently held in the senate needs to establish integrity principles to make sure that an up or down vote is received by all nominees. If these are the present requirements of the process, then they need to be followed. Integrity in governmental proceedings such as the senate confirmation hearings is important and the public deserves to have their senators and representatives treat any of the nominees with the respect they deserve. Playing party politics, which is the perception I have is unacceptable. Every person who is nominated for an office needs to be assured that appropriate questions are asked relating to their position. Senators should not try to impose their views through questions regarding the requirements of the position. If a person is qualified to hold the position then they should be presented to the full senate for an up or down vote. It should not take months for this cycle to be completed. The hearings need to be held in an efficient manner. The more time spent on the process takes away focus on other issues. It also, I believe is a waste of taxpayer money in not conducting the hearings efficiently and timely. We constantly talk about cost efficiency in government yet time is wasted in the present senate confirmation hearing process


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