The White House has spent months battling Republican blockades on Biden’s nominees for various positions. A handful of them are candidates for critical ambassadorships that GOP senators have held up.
Biden has been slow to elect nominees for some key positions, while others have failed to gain enough support in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats only have the majority thanks to Vice President Harris.
The result is an administration that has witnessed a slower confirmation rate than its three predecessors, leaving White House officials and Senate Democrats increasingly frustrated. While many positions are held by officials serving in an acting capacity, experts insist that permanent leadership across government is important to keep up morale and allow for long-term planning.
“The end result of all of this is, at a moment when we need so much from our government, we have a government that is not led with permanent officials in many instances, and that’s a big problem,” stated Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service.
Kathryn Tenpas, an expert in executive confirmations at the Brookings Institution, argued that President Biden is lagging behind former Presidents Trump, Obama and George W. Bush when it comes to the number of confirmed nominees in the first 300 days of his presidency “by extremely significant points.”
Of the 15 major departments, 140 of Biden’s nominees have been confirmed, according to her research, while Trump had 158, Obama had 274, and Bush had 326 at the same point. There are 1,200 Senate-confirmed positions across the executive branch, including bodies like the Environmental Protection Agency that Tenpas does not track.
She said that confirmations are slow at the departments of State, Commerce, Homeland Security, Defense, Transportation and Treasury when comparing the Biden administration to its predecessors. While the Senate has been slow to process nominations for executive departments, it has moved quickly to confirm judicial nominees than it did under Trump.
“By far, the worst performance is at the State Department,” Tenpas said.
Republican senators, including Ted Cruz (Texas), have slow-walked dozens of State Department nominees, including those to ambassadorships and other senior-level posts, angering the White House.
Cruz’s decision to stall the nominations is part of an effort to push the administration to impose mandatory sanctions on a Russia gas pipeline.
Instead of being able to quickly confirm these nominees by unanimous consent, the Senate must use up valuable floor time. Schumer has filed cloture on 119 nominations under the Biden administration, almost double the times cloture was filed on Trump nominees during the same period, according to statistics provided by Schumer’s office.
Schumer has criticized Republicans for “unprecedented obstruction” of Biden’s nominees and warned in a recent Nov. 14 Dear Colleague letter that he could keep the chamber in session longer to push through the nominees.