Sens. Feingold and McCain still trying to trim presidential appointees

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Monday introduced a bill to slash the number of presidential political appointees, both full-time and part-time, from about 3,500 to 2,000 employees.

The measure, similar to ones they introduced during the Clinton and Bush administrations, would most likely cut lower-level schedule C appointees -- the "confidential aide" and "special adviser" jobs usually filled by campaign workers.

Both senators have promoted such reductions, which are supported by government reform experts, as a way to reduce costs, cut government and streamline the bureaucracy. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated these cuts could yield a savings of nearly $900 million over 10 years.

Presidents generally "believe that the more political appointees you get into office, the more responsive the bureaucracy becomes," said New York University professor Paul Light. Although that might be so at a certain level, after a while "an inflated number of presidential appointees makes for paralysis," he said.

In a statement, the senators note that the number of political appointees, estimated at 2,700 at the end of the Carter administration, has "shot up by nearly 28 percent." Their proposal gives the administration one year to determine where to make the cuts needed to bring down the total to 2,000 appointees.

-- Al Kamen

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