Personnel is policy, which means that the people who make up our federal institutions matter. Which means that the partisan Republican assault on the staffing up of the federal agencies that regulate so much of the public’s everyday life also matters greatly. Unfortunately, as we have highlighted for months and will continue to highlight for as long as it persists, the federal government is being gutted from the inside out by a blockade of overdue qualified leadership.
The confirmation crisis continues to plague some of our most significant regulatory bodies, undemocratically maintaining Republican control of regulatory entities, stalling necessary legislation stemming from missing quorums, and preventing progressive leaders from delivering crucial campaign promises.
As we highlighted in January, and again in July, partisan gridlock at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is still preventing the accomplishment of Biden’s goals like (re)implementing net neutrality and expanding national broadband access. Gigi Sohn, who would give Democrats a majority at the gridlocked commission, is still awaiting confirmation in the Senate. She has been waiting for action on her nomination for just under a year, with little progress having been made amidst a brutal Republican blockade. Sohn, worryingly, is not the only one. Kalpana Kotagal – Biden’s choice to reclaim a Democratic majority at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – also remains trapped within the nebulous and artificially labyrinthian Senate confirmation process and the Republican malfeasance that defines it. The EEOC enforces against discriminatory employment practices and defends protected classes – including women, racial minorities, LGBTQ+ folk, and people with disabilities – via both litigation and through, e.g., proactive outreach and educational efforts. Kotagal would cement a Democratic majority at the commission and has the credentials to suggest she would motivate innovative and efficacious action from the discrimination watchdog.
Kotagal and Sohn are just the tip of the iceberg of dysfunction in the Senate confirmation process, and the depths of Republican mal-intent which makes it as painful as possible. We at the Revolving Door Project have always maintained that the independent agencies are crucial to any real implementation of an administration’s agenda. Republicans, like Senators Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Pat Toomey, and others have demonstrated themselves utterly unwilling to act in good faith on nominations issues as they have dragged out (or entirely manufactured) the confirmation battles of dozens of leaders across the federal landscape.
Senate rule changes continue to be absolutely critical to the adequate staffing of the federal government, and to bar against bad faith abuses of Senatorial power. Even without the robust reformative measures we’ve argued for historically, Senate Democrats have a bounty of tools at their disposal to make these evasion tactics equally painful for the Republicans forcing them. As we noted in July, Chuck Schumer and Democrat Senate leadership should “increase the costs of obstruction by pursuing such inconvenient measures as forcing the Senate to be in session into the night, over weekends, and into its summer break in order to clear the confirmation backlog.”
For more information about our confirmations work see our Confirmations Crisis Link.
For more information about particular agencies and nominations see the Agency Spotlight.
Nominations This Summer:
Since the end of July, President Biden has nominated eight people to independent agency boards, including renominations of sitting members. Those are to the:
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC):
- Jonathan McKernan, Republican
- Travis Hill, Republican
- Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC):
- Robert G. Taub, Republican
- National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB):
- Alvin Brown, Democrat
- United States Parole Commission (USPC):
- Almo J. Carter, Non-Partisan
- Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSHIB):
- Stephen A. Owens, Non-Partisan
- Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC):
- Moshe Z. Marvit, Non-Partisan
- Surface Transportation Board (STB):
- Robert E. Primus, Democrat
Including these, the total number of Biden’s outstanding nominations, i.e. Biden’s nominees that are still awaiting Senate confirmation, stands at 17. This represents less than 37% of the 47 seats that Biden could currently nominate officials to. These 47 open seats are further broken down by 17 outright vacancies and 30 expired terms. Of the outright vacancies, 23.5% must be filled by Democrats, and 64.7% must be filled by non-Democratic nominees. Of the expired seats, 40% are staffed by Democrats and another 23.3% are classified as non-partisan.
Confirmations This Summer:
- Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
- Mary T. Boyle, Democrat
- Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIMBANK)
- Owen Edward Herrnstadt, Democrat
- Farm Credit Administration (FCA)
- Vincent Garfield Logan, Democrat
- Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC)
- Mary Lucille Jordan, Non-Partisan
- Timothy Baker, Non-Partisan
- Federal Reserve Board (FRB)
- Michael S. Barr, Non-Partisan
- Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB)
- Michael Gerber, Democrat
- Stacie Olivares, Democrat
- Leona M. Bridges, Democrat
- Dana K. Bilyeu, Republican
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
- Bradley R. Crowell, Democrat
- Annie Caputo, Republican
- Privacy Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB)
- Travis LeBlanc, Democrat
- Richard E. DiZinno, Republican
- Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
- Jaime E. Lizarraga, Democrat
- Mark Toshior Uyeda, Republican
- United States Sentencing Commission (USSC)
- Carlton W. Reeves, Democrat
- Candice C. Wong, Democrat
- Laura E. Mate, Democrat
- John Gleeson, Democrat
- Claire McCusker Murray, Republican
- Claria Horn Boom, Republican
- Luis Felipe Restrepo, Republican
Agencies Awaiting Democratic Majorities:
The following boards are awaiting Democratic majorities. In some cases, the Biden administration has failed to nominate officials to fully vacant seats in order to attain these majorities a year into his administration. In others, the Biden administration is sitting on expired Democrat seats that should be renominated or replaced.
- Farm Credit Administration (FCA): Biden should fill the two open Democratic seats (one expired, one vacant) at the administration to establish a Democrat majority. He has thus far made only one nomination.
- Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC): Biden should nominate a Democrat to the open vacant seat at the commission.
Democratic Majorities Delayed While Waiting Confirmation:
The following boards are awaiting Democratic majorities that are stalled by the Senate confirmation process.
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): Kalpana Kotagal’s confirmation will give Democrats a majority at the commission.
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC): Gigi Sohn’s confirmation will give Democrats a majority.
- National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB): Alvin Brown’s confirmation will give Democrats a majority.
Other Agencies Awaiting Nominations:
- Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB)
- There are two vacant seats – one Democrat and one Republican – at the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. Biden could prioritize the nomination and confirmation of a Democrat to staff the board while using the Republican slot as a trade to get unanimous consent for an expeditious vote on Democratic nominees. The board is currently controlled by Democrats.
- Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
- There are four expired seats – two Democrats and two Republicans – at the Election Assistance Commission. Biden could prioritize the nomination and confirmation of the Democrat to staff the board while using the Republican slots as a trade to get unanimous consent for an expeditious vote on Democratic nominees. The board is partisanly balanced.
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
- Geoffery Adam Starks’ Democratic term expired over the summer. Biden should either renominate Starks or another Democrat to cement the Democrat majority at the commission assuming Gigi Sohn’s confirmation.
- Federal Election Commission (FEC)
- There are two expired seats – one Democrat and one Republican – at the FEC. Biden should prioritize the nomination and confirmation of a Democrat to staff the commission. Biden could prioritize the nomination and confirmation of the Democrat to staff the commission while using the Republican slot as a trade to get unanimous consent for an expeditious vote on other Democratic nominees. (alternatively, some have suggested nominating a pro-campaign finance reform Republican or Independent in the mold of Trevor Potter) The board is balanced between the parties.
- Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FCSC)
- There are two expired seats, both non-partisan, at the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. Biden should nominate officials to both.
- There is one vacant non-partisan seat. Biden should also nominate an official to fill this seat. The commission is non-partisan.
- Internal Revenue Service Oversight Board (IRSOB)
- There are six vacant seats, all non-partisan, at the IRSOB. Biden should fully staff the board with nominees. The board is non-partisan.
- United States International Trade Commission (USITC)
- There are three expired seats, two Democrats and one Republican, at the USITC. Biden could prioritize the nomination and confirmation of the Democrat to staff the board while using the Republican slot as a trade to get unanimous consent for an expeditious vote on other Democratic nominees. The USITC is currently controlled by three Republicans to the commission’s two (expired) Democrats. Biden must nominate to restore partisan balance.
- There is one vacant Democrat seat at the USITC. Biden should nominate an official to fill this seat.
- United States Parole Commission (USPC)
- There are two non-partisan expired seats at the USPC. Biden should nominate, or renominate, officials to fill both.
- There are two vacant non-partisan seats at the USPC. Biden should nominate officials to fill these seats. The commission is non-partisan.
Soon-to-be-Vacant or Expiring Democratic Seats:
- Surface Transportation Board (STB)
- Robert E. Primus, Democrat, term expiring 12/31/2022, must vacate by 12/31/2023, reappointment pending
- Martin J. Oberman, Democrat, term expiring 12/31/2023, must vacate by 12/31/2024
- National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
- Thomas B. Chapman, Democrat, term expiring 12/31/2023, may remain until position is otherwise filled.
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, Democrat, term expiring 9/26/2022, may remain until position is otherwise filled.
- National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC)
- E. Sequoyah Simermeyer (Coharie), Republican, term expiring 11/21/2022, can be replaced by a Democrat following expiration.
Biden will be unable to secure majorities on several boards for months or years (assuming that no one steps down before their term expires).
Biden cannot have a majority on the…
- National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) until 8/2/2023
- Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) until 10/14/2022