In Washington, political appointments are a hotly contested system

Upon arrival at the White House, each American president engages in a complex human resources and partisan management exercise: the process of nominating approximately 4,000 so-called “political” positions, within administrations reporting to the executive and autonomous agencies. Almost 1,200 of these require parliamentary confirmation, an increase of 56% between 1960 and 2016. According to the Constitution, it is up to the president to send his candidate for a specific position to the Senate. Then the Senate submits it to the examination of the committee specializing in its field of activity. The members of the committee then question the candidate on their background, their writings, their analyzes, their conception of the position, then express their opinion, before a possible vote in plenary session.

However, this system is now highly contested, due to an embolism in the Senate. the Washington Post and the non-governmental organization Partnership for Public Service have joined forces to identify validated appointments and especially those which remain suspended, out of 800 key positions. For now, Joe Biden has nominated candidates for only about half. And they are only 266 to have taken office (238 under Trump at the same time), 169 being still blocked in the Senate. The problem is particularly acute in the State Department. Dozens of diplomat files are frozen. It was not until late at night, December 18, just before the Christmas truce, for some 40 nominations to be confirmed, after months of inaction.

On December 14, during a press conference in Jakarta (Indonesia), Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the subject, without hiding his impatience.. ” Last week, he said, only 16% of our ambassadors had been confirmed. At the same time under the three previous administrations, the figure was between 70% and 90%. Critical positions, including Beijing, remain vacant. It is a huge problem. In every challenge we face, including doing business with Russia, with China, with non-state actors, we are hampered by the fact that we do not have our full national security and political team on the ground. foreign. “

” Unprecedented “

Absolute symbol of this paralysis: Nicholas Burns has yet to take office in Beijing, while China is the horizon of Biden diplomacy. It was not confirmed until December 16, after weeks of opposition from Republican Senator Marco Rubio. The passage of a law banning the importation into the United States of many products manufactured in the province of Xinjiang, where the Uighurs are massively repressed, removed this obstacle.

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In Washington, political appointments are a hotly contested system

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