Julian Castro was confirmed today as the secretary of the Department of Housing and Human Development. Nice job, everyone!
Not that I care much about the HUD secretary (other than that Castro's nomination means a new mayor for me here in San Antonio, but it’s a weak mayor system, so it really won’t matter much). However, I am pleased this one was quick. President Barack Obama nominated Castro at the same time he announced the selection of HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to head the Office of Management and Budget. That was May 22, so it took a reasonable seven weeks to go from vacancy to confirmation.
Granted, Donovan’s case isn’t quite as good. It took another six weeks between the nomination of OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and the selection of Donovan to replace her, and Donovan has yet to be confirmed. Seven weeks is fine; 13 and counting isn’t. On the other hand, it’s an improvement over what happened with the the last OMB opening: the key position was vacant for more than a year, most of that time without even a nominee.
It’s probably true the Obama administration is doing a better job of filling vacancies than during the first term, but major cracks keep appearing. For example, two seats on the Federal Reserve Board still have no nominees. One has been open since May (but was announced in early April); the other was announced almost a year ago, and has been empty since March.
Or consider the status of another important post, the leadership of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, was nominated in March 2013 to be secretary of the Department of Labor, and was confirmed in July 2013. Several months later, in November, Obama finally nominated Debo Adegbile to the position, but the nomination was defeated in a Senate procedural vote on March 5. It’s been more than four months (and a year since Perez became labor secretary) and nothing has happened.
Yes, the Senate is still something of a bottleneck, even in this post-nuclear option era of simple-majority confirmations. But that’s no excuse for not making nominations. The administration has improved, especially with judicial nominations, but it only has moved from a failing grade to a soft C. So yes, we have a HUD Secretary, but it’s long past time to make filling all the other vacancies a much higher priority.
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