President Joe Biden has picked roughly one-third of the nominees for positions in his administration that require Senate confirmation; 405 identified out of about 1,200 total slots. There are another 2,500+ positions that are political appointments not needing confirmation, many of which have burrowed Trumpers still hanging around.
He’s been chipping away at it, and some of the worst are gone. For example, he fired the odious Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul when Saul refused to resign. That was in July. Kilolo Kijakazi, the deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy, has been serving as acting commissioner, and Biden hasn’t named a permanent commissioner. That’s not the worst thing, yet.
Among the worst things would be allowing Republicans to take over the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is in actual danger of happening if Biden doesn’t name a fifth commissioner as well as appointing the FCC chief. Right now, Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel is temporarily serving as interim director, a position that ends at the end of the year unless Biden formally nominates her and she is confirmed. The real danger is that the FCC majority would then be handed over to Republicans by default—they’d have a 2-1 majority. So that’s scary.
Another very bad thing is keeping Trump’s IRS commissioner, Chuck Rettig. Rettig has already tried to sabotage Biden’s Child Tax Credit expansion in the COVID-19 relief package that passed in March. He’s also responsible for the scandal of enforcement that allows billionaires off the hook for not paying taxes, and sending what IRS resources there are after lower-income taxpayers for enforcement. After ProPublica broke that big story, Rettig didn’t launch an investigation into IRS enforcement, but into how the document leak happened.
There’s an awful lot of responsibility for the IRS going forward in Biden’s big Build Back Better agenda, provided it survives the Manchin/Sinema whack-a-mole game. It would be good to have someone at the IRS who won’t be in a position to sabotage the program.
Then there’s FBI Director Chris Wray, yet another literally dangerous Trump holdover, because this: “White supremacist violence accounts for the majority of terrorist attacks committed in the United States, the frequency and lethality of which is only escalating … Wray oversaw this surge in far-right terror, and did little to mitigate the growing movement of organized white nationalist violence. As a result, those who find themselves in the crosshairs of white supremacist conspiracy theories are more vulnerable to racist attacks …” That violence is only being exacerbated by the continuation of the pandemic.
And then there’s the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). There’s Louis DeJoy and there’s Board of Governors Director Ron Bloom. Bloom has to go and once that’s accomplished, DeJoy has to go because he’s going to destroy the USPS. DeJoy is a walking dumpster fire and corrupt as hell on top of that.
At the same time, there’s a lot that needs to be done in the Senate because there always needs to be something done in the Senate. As of last week, the Senate had confirmed 154 officials. The problem—as Eleanor Eagan, research director at Revolving Door Project; and Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project—have said, is this: At the pace they’ve been confirming officials, “the Senate will not have confirmed the 1200 total officials who are ultimately set to cross the Senate floor until … November of 2026. Even just clearing the current backlog of 224 pending nominations would take over a year.”
It won’t take getting rid of the filibuster to start speeding this up, it’ll just take some rule changes. Two identified by Eagan and Hauser are eliminating the two-day waiting period between when Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduces a cloture vote—the vote to proceed to the nomination—and the vote. The second is using debate time for blocks of nominees rather than individual ones.
“This would preserve a senator’s right to raise concerns about specific nominees before a vote, but would focus discussion on actually controversial picks,“ Eagan and Hauser write. ”Moreover, by eliminating the delays associated with the regular procedure, Democrats would neutralize Republicans’ power to withhold unanimous consent.”
Biden needs his own team. The plans he has for the nation demand it. And the U.S. deserves to have Biden’s team after the multiple disasters we’ve suffered under Trump.