The job was bigger than they thought
The Short Version
Apparently, no one in the transition team for the new president thought the days would pass so quickly. As a new president takes the oath of office, and members of the Obama administration begin to move out, there is a shortage of staff members. Specifically, about 640 positions that require Senate confirmation are empty. Those people just happen to be necessary for the day-to-day operation of the country. So, the new president has asked 50 members of the old administration to stay on temporarily.
A Litte More Detail
You would have thought they could see this coming. In fact, had the transition team followed the original plan laid out by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, they probably would have been all set and ready to go into today with new people filling all the important seats. Unfortunately, Mr. Christie got the “you’re fired” memo ten weeks ago and he took his plan with him. Indiana Governor and vice president-elect took over the transition team without a clue as to what he was doing. Under Mr. Christie’s plan, all appointees requiring Senate confirmation would have been named by the first week in December. Mr. Pence had no such plan.
As a result, key members of the administration are not in place, or even close to it, as the new president takes the oath of office. This is a problem for critical offices such as the State Department who never actually get a day off. There’s always something going over there. Yet, there’s no one sitting in that seat just yet. The appointee to the office of Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, isn’t close to being approved by the Senate. So, Obama appointee Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. has been asked to stay on until the Senate has time to take action.
Is this surprising? Not for anyone who is familiar with the scope of the transition of government. Anyone who has been in Washington, D. C. during a period such as this understands just how coordinated everything must be to cover all the bases in a relatively short time between the election and the inauguration. However, we didn’t elect anyone with actual government experience, did we? So, they were caught off-guard by the fact they couldn’t just hire all their friends and relatives and expect the Senate to just say, “Hey, they seem nice enough. Let ’em all in.”
What Happens Next?
The Obama appointees can stay on as long as the new president needs them. There is no timetable for Senate confirmation and nothing says that everyone absolutely, positively has to be gone by today. In fact, with over 600 appointments still to go, most of which have yet to be named, its quite likely that there could be remnants of the Obama administration lingering in fairly high positions of power well into the first year of the new administration.
Not helping matters any is the grilling that almost all of the new top-level appointees are getting from the Senate confirmation committees. As the Senate exercises extreme and partisan caution in approving cabinet members, it slows down the rate at which mid-level appointees can be vetted and approved. While it’s not unusual for some positions to go unfilled for a year or more, the number of vacant positions facing this administration is alarming and a cause for some concern.
While no one is likely to notice anything amiss over the weekend, matters related to international affairs, the economy, and employment could start rearing their ugly heads as early as next week. Without anyone authoritatively taking the reigns in those departments, what are typically mundane matters of paperwork are likely to go undone, leading to a ripple effect of consequences. The end result could potentially be catastrophic.
Not that the incoming president seems to care. He’s been noticeably hands off throughout the transition period.
If this is the way the administration is going to be operated for the next four years, we could see an increasing amount of chaos and much of the actual workings of the government could come to a screeching halt.
This is what happens when we elect someone who doesn’t have a clue how government actually works. While the new president is familiar with television reality, Washington reality is a different sort of program and this administration is far from being ready for prime time.