At the beginning of his administration, President George Washington established a cabinet of advisors to offer him guidance in governing the new nation. His Cabinet included four members: Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of War and Attorney General. As our country grew and the need for executive departments developed, the number of cabinet members also increased. Today, the president’s Cabinet includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments. These are important positions that support the president. That’s why it’s critical to fill these positions quickly and ensure a smooth transition between administrations.
The checks and balances outlined in the Constitution entrust the Senate with the responsibility of confirming presidential appointments under the “advice and consent” clause. This role allows my colleagues and I to help the president surround himself with good advisors through the confirmation process.
The Senate has a long-standing tradition of confirming the Cabinet nominees of a newly elected administration in a timely fashion. Senate committees began vetting President Donald Trump’s Cabinet selections and holding hearings at the beginning of the year in order to confirm nominees once the president assumed office. Unfortunately, this process is taking longer than necessary.
In 2009, the Senate confirmed seven of President Obama’s nominees on day one – and nearly all of them within two weeks. That same courtesy has not been extended to President Trump. My Democrat colleagues are stalling this process despite the rigorous vetting. In some cases, President Trump’s nominees faced stricter scrutiny than nominees from previous administrations.
For instance, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), went through a grueling nomination process that demanded he answer more than 1,200 questions, more than any incoming nominees for the same position in the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations. He testified in a six-hour confirmation hearing that included an additional round of questions to satisfy the request of my Democrat colleagues.
Rather than participating in the committee process to move this nomination to the Senate floor, Democrats boycotted the meeting. This followed similar actions in the Senate Finance Committee for nominees to head the Treasury Department and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Instead of obstructing the nomination process, I encourage my colleagues to work together to ensure the president has a fully functioning team to provide him with the information and guidance he needs, and deserves, to carry out the work he was elected to do.
In order to respond to the needs of our country, our federal agencies need leaders in place. The needless delays we are confronting hinder our executive departments from supporting the Trump administration’s policies. Arkansans overwhelmingly supported President Trump in the November election and are counting on Congress to help him govern effectively. I urge my Senate colleagues to stop delaying the confirmation of his nominees.