It’s Getting Harder and Harder for EPA Nominees to Get Confirmed

Eight of the 14 slots at the Environmental Protection Agency requiring Senate confirmation are vacant or filled with acting officials, and it has gotten progressively more difficult for officials to get through the process during the Obama administration, academics and other observers have said.

There is plenty of blame to go around, according to academics. The White House has taken progressively longer to nominate officials and turn in required paperwork, while the Senate is on track this year to confirm the fewest executive branch nominees in decades.

“This is a perennial issue, reaching back into at least the mid-1980s,” Sarah Binder, congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution, told Bloomberg BNA of the struggles to confirm nominees late in administrations. “As a president's term winds down, there are very few incentives for senators to confirm the opposite party nominees to high-profile vacancies.”

EPA nominees chart2

Similar issues were seen during the final years of the George W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, but the problem has gotten worse during the Obama years. For example, 28 percent of President Barack Obama's nominees through 2014 were ultimately not confirmed by the Senate compared to a 17.5 percent failure rate for President Ronald Reagan.

Obama's picks have also waited longer for Senate action. While the average executive branch nominee between 1981 and 2014 waited 88.5 days for Senate action, the current president's selections have lingered an average of 127.2 days.

Right now, the last Obama EPA nominees to clear the Senate got the chamber’s stamp of approval on Aug. 1, 2013. They could very well be the last officials to complete the nomination process, according to some academics.

The complete examination of the state of the confirmation process is available for subscribers here.