It took more than a year, but the Senate has moved to confirm at least one of the nominees for senior science positions at the Department of Energy. On Thursday the Senate confirmed Franklin Orr as the undersecretary for science. On Monday the Senate is scheduled to vote to confirm Ellen Williams as the new head of Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy. Mark Kastner, nominee to head the Office of Science, is on the calendar, but no vote has been scheduled. With Congress ending sometime this month, the process would need to start over for Kastner and all others not confirmed. All because the Senate is challenged to vote on much of anything, much less pass legislation.
After the budgetary process, I consider the nominations and confirmation of appointees to be the biggest area of dysfunction in the Congress. While I can be persuaded that there are likely too many positions that require full vetting by a Senate committee followed by a confirmation vote, it remains inexcusable to me that it should take more than a year to fill senior level positions once an Administration has found a willing person. A wait of that length can tax the most patient of people interested in serving, and while people can serve in an acting capacity, it’s far from the same.