Ever since the late Robert Bork was rejected by the Senate as a Supreme Court justice in 1987, presidential appointments have garnered more attention, deliberation and filibusters. Even though they were written into the Constitution as one of many checks and balances, high-level appointments were once considered mere formality once presented to Congress.
But we fear the battles that erupt over most presidential nominees now have become political battles designed to score points in other areas not necessarily related to the individual. Increasingly, such fights do little but consume an enormous amount of valuable legislative time that could be better spent. And as Congress finds itself consistently kicking issues down the road and passing stopgap measures at the last minute, we would think national priorities such as deficit and debt reduction should occupy the efforts of all our elected leaders.
Particularly when a Cabinet appointee has survived many a background check, possesses the necessary experience and credentials, and has proved worthy of the Senate's blessing.
As so often is the case, we likely will be incorrect in our logical thought process.
Consider Jack Lew, President Barack Obama's choice to replace Timothy Geithner as secretary of the Treasury.
We usually would be leery of anyone that receives high praise from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, such as Lew received from the business group on Thursday.
"One of the realities of Mr. Lew's appointment is the challenges we face in the country right now -- the cliffs we have in front of us," said Thomas Donohue, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber. "I think Jack is a very experienced fellow on the issues of debt, deficits and budgets."
The Chamber wasn't alone in its assessment. Similar endorsements came from the Financial Services Forum, a major banking industry group, and Moody's Analytics. Both organizations were enthusiastic about the capabilities possessed by Lew, currently the White House chief of staff. He also has been budget director and headed the Office of Management and Budget.
Even with his credentials, Lew has come under fire from senators of both parties as well as one of the independent officials for his negotiating style.
We believe Cabinet appointments should receive vigorous and appropriate scrutiny. But we do not believe it should come at the expense of critical tasks Congress should be working on. The recent practice of postponing every significant issue until the last possible deadline -- or later in some cases -- should prompt our elected leaders to reconsider their own time management and prioritization abilities. If those on Capitol Hill can find consensus on how to reduce government spending in a responsible manner, then they can feel free to while away the hours grilling every person the president selects to put in key positions.
Until that time, however, we the people are not being served in the manner we deserve. We beseech Congress to make short work of any candidate the second-term president suggests in order to address the more important national issues at hand.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry