By Sally B. Donnelly/Washington
(TIME, May 26) -- Here's a bipartisan program that is saving taxpayers millions every year: nearly 250 of the government's 726 most senior jobs are going unfilled, an unusually slow pace even by Clinton standards. Posts prestigious and powerful are going begging: Surgeon General, ambassador to Russia, head of the Food and Drug Administration, five of the top six slots at Justice and the Deputy Secretary of Commerce. Several factors are at work:
White House Indecision
In the beginning, there was egg--for Ethnicity, Geography and Gender, the three factors used by Clinton to select nominees. Those characteristics still count, but sheer desperation to avoid any hint of S--for Scandal--has nearly choked the process to a halt. Burned by an outspoken Joycelyn Elders and a bumbling Henry Foster, Clinton has yet to name a Surgeon General. The Administration is dawdling even on routine appointments such as the promotion of David Lipton from Treasury Assistant Secretary to Undersecretary.
The Driven-Snow Problem
Since 1978, nominees have had to fill out mind-numbing forms that demand details of everything from teenage drug use to housekeeper taxes, and then submit to separate White House, FBI and Senate investigations, all of which can take several months. Some nominees pre-empt questions themselves: last week CIA director-designate George Tenet asked the Senate to delay his confirmation vote in order to look into investments his father gave him without his knowledge in 1983.
In a bitterly partisan Washington, Senate Republicans can make a name by morphing into one-man roadblocks. Alabama's Richard Shelby clocked 15 minutes of fame by stopping CIA nominee Anthony Lake, who eventually withdrew. Orrin Hatch, head of the judiciary committee, last week abruptly postponed hearings for Eric Holder to be Deputy Attorney General because Holder's office once asked the IRS to delay a probe of D.C. police officers. Fifty-seven other presidential nominations are awaiting congressional approval.
Who Needs This?
The hypothetical voice of a prospective nominee: "I make six figures and have an expense account that reaches from here to eternity. Tell me again why I would want to run the nomination gauntlet to toil away in a huge government bureaucracy." Statements like that help explain why a nominee like businessman and Democratic fund raiser Terry McAuliffe withdrew his name from consideration for Secretary of Commerce. Even hush-hush high finance isn't a draw: two governorships on the Federal Reserve are vacant. Any takers?
Copyright © 1997 AllPolitics All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this information is provided to you.