The Senate vote a week ago to limit the ability of the minority to block presidential appointments was a welcome move, not least because it enhances accountability.
It should now be easier for President Obama to dismiss high-level officials who fail at their jobs — easier because he can select a replacement and actually have an opportunity to get that appointment through the Senate. And easier because high-quality candidates might be more willing to accept nominations knowing that their lives won’t be put on hold indefinitely by senatorial stalling.
Imagine, for example, that Obama had reacted to the failure of the Healthcare.gov website by firing Kathleen Sebelius, the Cabinet officer whose department had the task of preparing for the new program. Can you seriously imagine the Senate Republicans, bent as they are on sabotaging the health-care program, allowing anybody to take the job?
Obama was stuck with Sebelius, for better or worse. Dismissing her would merely create a vacancy he wouldn’t be allowed to fill with an effective leader. Now, at least, it’s a realistic option.
The more controversial the vacancy, the less likely it was for an appointment to go through in the poisonous partisanship that permeates the Capitol today.
Both parties, when not in power, have too often used the filibuster to frustrate the executive’s ability to have the officials he wants, and the tendency has gotten worse each time the White House changes hands. But elections are supposed to have consequences. It hardly seems too much to ask of the Senate that it vote on nominations. (It’s part of the job.)
Dumping the appointment filibuster should make it easier to fire appointees who can’t get the job done, and to bring in those who can. No matter which party occupies the White House, that should be good for the country.