The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein had an interesting column yesterday about Senate gridlock and how it could be forcing President Obama and agency heads to stick with people they’d like to fire. Money quote:
The problem gets worse as it goes deeper. It’s not just that [Treasury Secretary Timothy] Geithner can’t be fired. It’s that he, in turn, can’t fire anybody. Treasury is understaffed, and there’s little reason to believe that the Senate will consider its nominees anytime soon. If Geithner is displeased with the performance of an appointed subordinate, he can’t ponder whether America would be better off with another individual in that office. Instead, he must decide whether America would be better off if that office were empty.
This has a couple of effects. For one thing, it makes the bureaucracy less accountable, and over the long run, it makes it less effective. Plenty of Senate Republicans complain that schools can’t fire bad teachers, but they’ve made it so that department heads can’t fire bad undersecretaries. For another, it pushes the White House and the agencies to rely on positions that don’t require Senate confirmation, leading to a proliferation of advisers and counselors who don’t have the power of appointees and aren’t subject to any congressional scrutiny. It’s the worst of both worlds.
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