Government of the People

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

THE CONFIRMATION of five members to the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday was the end of a six-month skirmish between the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). But the years-long battle over appointments to jobs within the federal government continues as scores of men and women eager to serve have languished in confirmation limbo for months, if not years. This is no way to run a government.

The tussle centers on 112 names sent to Mr. Reid by the White House last week. There are 46 nominees who would serve at the pleasure of the president and whose terms would expire when Mr. Bush leaves office on Jan. 20. The other 66 are so-called termed nominations. Some are for noncontroversial entities such as the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation's board of trustees and the National Council on Disability. But there are also pairings of Democrats and Republicans for various boards and authorities, including the nominees for the National Labor Relations Board and the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

Also part of the batch of termed nominations are three for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and one for the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). It is here where the absurdity of the situation has the potential for real-life consequences. Donald Marron's wait to be confirmed to the CEA will hit the one-year mark on Saturday. The three pending Federal Reserve confirmations have been under consideration since May 2007; of the seven board seats, only four are filled by confirmed individuals, and one of them is leaving this summer. The Federal Reserve has not been left to operate with fewer than five governors in its more than 70 years. When the nation is facing a housing crisis and the economy is struggling, there shouldn't be this much uncertainty -- neither for the bodies tasked with guiding the president and policy nor for the nominees.

Altogether, 394 nominees have waited a combined 52,122 days for confirmation. In all the bickering, it's easy to forget that there are real people behind the numbers. They've answered invasive questions about their families and their finances. They've put their lives on hold and have declined opportunities to take jobs and earn more money in the private sector to be in public service. They deserve to be told once and for all whether their service is needed.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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