The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” the other day and complained bitterly about congressional Democrats standing in the way of Donald Trump’s qualified nominees for administrative posts.
“We’re behind,” Priebus said about filling key executive-branch posts, “but because of historical unbelievable obstruction from U.S. senators that are acting inappropriately.”
That’s certainly how Donald Trump sees this dynamic. After initially saying he was leaving many key offices empty on purpose, Trump recently reversed course, saying he wants those posts filled but can’t because of “obstructionists.”
Reality tells a different story. The Senate, which is responsible for confirming nominees, is run by Trump’s Republican Party, and under existing rules, Democrats can’t use filibusters to block any executive-branch nominee.
So if Dems aren’t to blame, who is? The Washington Post makes clear that Team Trump should be looking in the mirror.
President Trump’s Cabinet secretaries are growing exasperated at how slowly the White House is moving to fill hundreds of top-tier posts, warning that the vacancies are hobbling efforts to oversee agency operations and promote the president’s agenda, according to administration officials, lawmakers and lobbyists.
The Senate has confirmed 26 of Trump’s picks for his Cabinet and other top posts. But for 530 other vacant senior-level jobs requiring Senate confirmation, the president has advanced just 37 nominees, according to data tracked by The Washington Post and the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Presidential Transition. These posts include the deputy secretaries and undersecretaries, chief financial officers, ambassadors, general counsels, and heads of smaller agencies who run the government day-to-day.
The Post’s piece added that prospective nominees are often slowed because they “must win approval from competing camps inside the White House,” and president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, sometimes has a say “when a hiring decision piques her interest.”
Priebus told the Post, “We make sure the people involved in hiring decisions don’t have an objection. To get to that point, you’ve gone through a long process. If someone has a serious objection, unless it can be resolved, it’s probably not going to move forward.”
Hmm. That’s not what Priebus said on “Meet the Press” a few days ago, when he pretended “unbelievable obstruction from U.S. senators” was responsible for the administration’s increasingly obvious personnel problems.
Of course, the larger arc to this story is that the White House isn’t just struggling, it’s also finding it difficult to explain why it’s struggling. Blaming Congress’ Democratic minority apparently makes Team Trump feel better, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense.