Thomas J. Donohue Thomas J. Donohue
Advisor and Former Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


October 06, 2017


Nine months into the Trump administration, an unusually high number of senior positions remain vacant. As of September 28, only 170 of President Trump’s nominees for key federal appointments had been approved, compared with 342 at this point in the Obama administration and 370 in the George W. Bush administration. This is leaving holes in our nation’s leadership that hamper operations and, in some cases, could stall economic growth.

Why is this happening? It’s true that the Trump administration has had a slow start to the nomination process, but this isn’t the full story. In fact, the president has already nominated approximately 280 individuals who are languishing in procedural limbo. Some in the Senate are forcing nominees to go through a time-consuming process designed to slow down confirmations. Rather than confirming noncontroversial nominees by voice vote—as the Senate has done in prior administrations—the Senate minority is forcing some confirmations to go through what is called the cloture process, which takes longer to complete. By one estimate, at the current pace it will take 11 years to confirm all the president’s nominees.

The impact of these delays is real. Workers are sidelined as projects await permits and approvals from agencies that lack the quorum necessary to issue them. Businesses are left waiting for important administrative decisions that simply cannot be made in the absence of Senate-confirmed officials. And numerous agencies and independent commissions lack the personnel to carry out the pro-growth and regulatory relief agenda the president wants to enact.

For example, due to stalling tactics by certain committee members, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions postponed a vote on the nominations of Patrick Pizzella to be deputy secretary of Labor and Janet Dhillon and Daniel Gade to be commissioners on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These highly qualified nominees deserve the same speedy consideration that has been afforded to previous holders of these positions. Those standing in their way are also standing in the way of the important work of the Labor Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to foster an economy that benefits all American workers and families.

The breakdown of the confirmation process results in a breakdown in the functioning of government—and ultimately a drag on the economy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce urges all parties to do their partin filling these critical positions. By appointing and confirming qualified nominees quickly, we can ensure a process that delivers what every American deserves: a working and efficient federal government.

About the authors

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue is advisor and former chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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