How to speed up Senate confirmation

 A United States Senate committee hearing room in Washington, DC on July 18, 2017.  shutterstock ID  686344315 By Katherine Welles

Confirmation speed for political appointees has lagged in recent years, and the Partnership for Public Service has some ideas for picking up the pace.

In a recent report, the Partnership for Public Service notes that on average, President Donald Trump's cabinet positions have taken an average of 115 days to get confirmed by the Senate during his first three years in office. President Barack Obama's choices took even longer, with appointees waiting on average 140 days during his first three years in office.

Years ago, the process moved more quickly. The Reagan administration's choices took an average of 56.5 days to be confirmed, according to the Partnership. The pace slowed during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush before becoming positively glacial in recent years.

When cabinet positions were taken out of the equation, the confirmation process dragged on even longer, peaking at close to 160 days in 2015 under Obama and about 140 days under Trump in 2019.

The report observes that confirmations were speediest in the first and fifth years of a presidency, and become more bogged down in the middle years of a term.

"Senate rules are not built for quick decisions while time constraints and competing priorities crowd out speedy consideration of nominees," the report's authors wrote. Parliamentary tactics can be used to slow down or delay confirmation processes even for appointments that aren't especially controversial.

The report also said that the timing of the confirmation process did not change depending on which party was in power. Additionally, candidates can get bogged down on the administration side, due to lengthy paperwork for disclosures and FBI and Office of Government Ethics vetting investigations.

Recommendations from the Partnership include making fewer presidential appointments subject to Senate approval, simplifying paperwork for nominees, making cabinet confirmations a legislative priority during the first 100 days of a presidential term and preparing the FBI and OGE for the flood of nominations that come in the early days of a first or second term of an administration.

The report also suggests frontloading as much of the appointments process into the presidential transition -- with candidates for posts waiting in the wings before election day.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


  • Defense
    DOD photo by Senior Airman Perry Aston  11th Wing Public Affairs

    How DOD's executive exodus could affect tech modernization

    Back-to-back resignations raise concerns about how things will be run without permanent leadership in key areas from policy to tech development.

  • Budget
    cybersecurity (vs148/

    House's DHS funding bill would create public-private cyber center

    The legislation would give $2.25 billion to DHS' cyber wing and set up an integrated cybersecurity center with other agencies, state and local governments and private industry.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.