Sunday, March 28, 2010

Obama announces 15 recess appointments, scolds GOP

Reuter's News article "Obama announces 15 recess appointments, scolds GOP" (March 27th, 2010) offers a quotes that deserves further scrutiny. The article quotes Harry Reid on appointments and nominations:

The Senate's top Democrat, Harry Reid, welcomed Obama's move. "Regrettably, Senate Republicans have dedicated themselves to a failed strategy to cripple President Obama's economic initiatives by stalling key administration nominees at every turn," said Reid, the majority leader from Nevada.

Corrections has a harder time seeing this from the data. On average a confirmed appointee spent 75.78 days waiting until their confirmation vote. On average, the 15 appointed nominees spent 214 days waiting until their confirmation vote. Of the 13 not-appointed nominees who spent 214 or more days waiting until their nomination vote but were confirmed, the average appointee spent 238.5 days waiting. Twenty-two individuals who waited 214 or more days remain unconfirmed.

Examining these twenty-two, none seem to be "key", as Senator Reid claims. As this can be seen as a subjective claim, Corrections offers a list of positions for the purposes of information dissemination and self-evaluation.
  • Four are members of the Commodity Credit Corporation Board of Directors. 
  • One is the Director of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management. 
  • There are three Assistant Attorney Generals (of various counsels). 
  • One is the Deputy Director for State, Local, and Tribal Affairs. 
  • Another is a Commissioner of the Federal Election Commission.
  • Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
  • Five Judges-two local D.C., two Court of Appeals, and a district court judge
  • Two board members of the Legal Services Center
  • A board member for the national labor relations board
  • Chief Counsel of Advocacy
  • Under Secretary of International Affairs
It is not immediately apparent whether or not Senator Reid's comment is deserving of correction.  For better understanding of the distribution of waiting times, Corrections offers a Kaplan-Meier plot for political appointees and their confirmation (click to enlarge).  We mark individuals not yet confirmed and individuals appointed.

Finally, and perhaps most relevantly, we can see that all appointments come after a large expected increase in their expected waiting days for confirmation, examining the conditional expectations (though a Heckman selection model with dubious exclusion restrictions gives an expected average waiting time of between 40 and 88 days, depending on specification).  This would perhaps be a more economic explanation of these recess appointments.

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