The Trump administration has appointed people to take fewer than half of the 601 executive positions requiring Senate confirmation. Some are especially important for the Northwest.
PRESIDENT Donald Trump appears to make decisions by not making decisions.
Last week, Trump announced to the U.N. General Assembly that the United States was prepared to “destroy” North Korea if necessary, a provocation all the more jarring given America’s nuclear arsenal.
If only we had an actual U.S. ambassador to South Korea to navigate the crisis — we don’t.
The administration’s disregard for filling ambassadorships and critical State Department posts is increasingly disturbing.
The Partnership for Public Service sponsors a “political appointee tracker,” which shows that out of 601 executive positions requiring U.S. Senate confirmation, more than half have no nominee.
Trump’s no-decision M.O. also finds expression locally, and Northwesterners are poorer for it. There is no nominee to run the regional office of the federal department of Health and Human Services. The position for Region 10 administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency also remains vacant. Rumors suggest state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Bellingham, is a contender, but the final selection will be informed by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who may favor a native of her home state.
The list goes on, from the local Small Business Administration to the U.S. Marshal’s office, the latter slot still unfilled from former President Obama’s time. Insiders report progress on the appointment of a U.S. Attorney for Western Washington, although one challenge is comprehending the administration’s decision tree. A U.S. attorney appointment is usually the bailiwick of the Attorney General. Senate staffers say that the process is complicated by powerful voices within the White House, a coterie of ideologues who often create a logjam.
The lack of appointments is not a worst-case scenario. Careerists fill most of the positions in an acting capacity, which means that business moves forward and an agency’s mission isn’t freighted with politics du jour. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, is more of a career-pathway appointment, as it should be. It also would be prudent for future EPA appointees to be apolitical, with science trumping quid pro quo politics.
For now, political norms dictate the need for executive leadership.
Whether this is strategic inattention or just garden-variety inattention, it doesn’t matter. The president needs to get moving on his appointments.