US President Barack Obama signed into law the Presidential Efficiency and Streamlining Act [legislation, PDF] Friday, which permits some senior government positions to be filled by the president without requiring Senate confirmation. The bill exempts 170 minor executive posts and 2,800 posts in the US Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Officer Corps [official websites] from requiring congressional confirmation. The bill also lessens the paperwork requirement for any nominee, streamlining the application forms. The bill had been approved in the Senate [JURIST report] by a 79-20 margin over a year ago and was only just passed in the House 261-116 in July.
Obama has been criticized for circumventing the traditional appointment process of submitting names for a House and Senate vote, although his defenders state that due to Senate and House pushback [JURIST op-ed], he has been left with no other options. In January Obama made a number of recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and was met with a constitutional challenge from business organizations [JURIST reports]. JURIST guest columnists have argued both sides of the issue, with James Kennedy, formerly of the NLRB arguing they were constitutional and Glenn Taubman of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation arguing that they were unconstitutional [JURIST comments].