Why should Neera Tanden have to be confirmed by the Senate, anyway?

Today, the Senate confirmation requirement primarily acts to weaken the president’s ability to enact his agenda. As of 2012, more than 1,200 positions required Senate confirmation. Given modern requirements for disclosure and background checking, senators simply cannot confirm these appointees quickly enough for them to take office shortly after a president’s inauguration. Posts can go unfilled for months or even years. This keeps a president from doing what he was elected to do.

The broad scope of modern government compounds this problem. In 1789, the United States did not run massive federal programs or regulate large sectors of the economy. Today, it does, and that means presidents campaign on promises to make changes in these important activities. Depriving a president of the personnel needed to run these agencies means old policies that may have been explicitly rejected by voters during the election remain in place. That’s not good for democracy.

The growth of the federal government also means there are many important positions that do not require Senate confirmation. The president’s chief of staff, often said to be the second-most-powerful person in government, oversees Senate-confirmed Cabinet officials yet does not require confirmation.