The Senate passed by a 79-20 margin today the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011, which would remove the Senate confirmation requirement for hundreds of executive branch positions, including two of the top federal jobs related to child welfare and juvenile justice.
S. 679 was never referred out of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The bill was introduced in late March by a bipartisan group of senators and blessed with the support of both Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Chief among the youth-related positions affected by the bill are Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), an agency within the Office of Justice Programs at the Department of Justice, and Commissioner of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), which is part of the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The ACYF job is currently held by Bryan Samuels. Samuels led Chicago’s child welfare system before becoming a top aide to Education Secretary Arne Duncan when he was CEO of Chicago Public Schools. ACYF manages the Children’s Bureau, which provides federal funding to states for foster care services and also measures the performance of state child welfare services.
The Obama administration has yet to nominate a person to serve as OJJDP administrator; the office is currently led by Acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski. OJJDP funds state efforts to ensure federal juvenile justice standards are being met, state advisory groups, demonstration projects, and missing and exploited children’s programs.
“As a candidate for the job, you don’t understand what it means to the field and the constituencies to have that direct oversight [of a] committee in the U.S. Congress, so the field can weigh in in a very powerful way regarding who gets that position,” said former OJJDP Administrator Shay Bilchik, who opposes the change. “Once it becomes simply a political appointment you lose that visibility and that transparency.”
Conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation also opposes the bill. Heritage’s David Addington, in an April opinion paper, wrote that “the sponsors of S. 679 have identified a valid problem, but proposed the wrong solution.”
“The Congress should not reduce the number of Senate-confirmed appointments as a means of dealing with its cumbersome and inefficient internal process for considering nominations,” Addington said. “Doing so gives away Senate influence over a number of significant appointments, does nothing to improve the Senate process, and still leaves nominees whose offices require nominations mired in the Senate process.”
The bill has the support of the Aspen Institute Commission to Reform the Appointments Process.
“S. 679 will make it possible for a new administration to fill very early in its first year about 70 communications and operations positions that new department heads need working with them to get off to a fast start and to communicate and work effectively,” the commission said in an opinion piece published this week in Youth Today and Roll Call.
Some other key youth-related positions that would no longer require a Senate confirmation vote:
Department of Education:
Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs, Department of Education
Commissioner – Rehabilitation Services Administration
Commissioner – Education Statistics
Members (15), National Board of Education Sciences
Department of Health and Human Services:
Commissioner, Administration for Native Americans
Corporation for National and Community Service
Managing Directors (two positions)
Department of Justice
Director, Bureau of Justice Statistics
Director, Bureau of Justice Assistance
Director, National Institute of Justice
Deputy Director, National Drug Control Policy
Deputy Director, Demand Reduction, National Drug Control Policy
Director, Office for Victims of Crime