Filibustering presidential appointments

Sanford Levinson SLevinson at
Thu Jun 2 20:38:45 PDT 2005

There is a strong argument that the President is entitled to have
whomever he wants to fill cabinet positions (including, arguendo, the UN
ambassadorship) because, after all, they are all political appointments
in the specific sense of legitimately being devoted simply to carrying
out the President's agenda (for which he is, at least in theory,
accountable).  Obviously, some of us believe that less deference is due
to judicial appointees, because of their lifetime character and the
myth, at least, that they have some function other than pushing the
party-in-power's agenda.  But where do chairs of "independent agencies"
fit.  If one is appalled by the replacement of SEC Commissioner
Donaldson by Rep. Cox (a devotee of Ayn Rand, we are told in tomorrow's
New York Times), then would it be proper for the Senate Democrats to
indicate the degree of their displeasure by filibustering the
nomination.  Or, let me put it a slightly different way:  If in fact one
thinks it's legitmate to filibuster judicial nominees, then why isn't it
equally legitimate to filibuster appointees to "independent agencies"?
I mean this as a serious question, because I do begin with the
presumption that presidents are entitled to pick (and have confirmed)
whom they want for cabinet positions save for truly "exceptional
circumstances."  (One might ultimately ask the same question about Alan
Greenspan's successor:  I.e., should the standard be "unless something
truly exceptional turns up" or "do we really trust this person to
exercise the enormous discretion he/she will have responsibly, which
means, among other things, that one thinks of something other than
furthering the president's agenda"?)


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