This was a vote on an amendment by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) that would have required the Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS--a federal agency that collects and analyzes data on crime in the U.S.) to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. This amendment was offered to legislation reducing the number of federal presidential appointments that were required to be approved by the U.S. Senate.
Under the constitution, the president has the authority to nominate individuals to lead federal agencies, but a majority of the Senate must vote in favor of their nomination in order for them to be sworn into office. The underlying bill would allow the BJS director to be appointed by the president without Senate approval. DeMint’s amendment would have required the director to be confirmed by the Senate.
DeMint urged support for his amendment: “It is very important that this particular position, this nominee for this position, be vetted and confirmed by the Senate. It is often said statistics don't lie; people do. Particularly in this business, we have seen one set of statistics be interpreted and publicized in totally different ways, and that is why this position is so important. The role they have is critical. In a democracy and in a free country, one of the most important aspects to protect against is that risk of the government becoming a propaganda machine. I wish to read what this particular position does: The Bureau of Justice Statistics collects, analyzes, publishes, and disseminates information on crime, criminal offenders, crime victims, and criminal justice operations….This information is acted on by local, State, and Federal officials. Lots of our laws are shaped and based on this information. Statistics are only as valuable as the reputation of the statistician, and that is what this position is….If we just put some political hack in this position--as, unfortunately, has happened over administrations of both parties, not necessarily for this position but we know in some positions--it would totally discredit what this person does.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) opposed DeMint’s amendment: “The Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports to the Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, who then reports to the Senate-confirmed Associate Attorney General, who then reports to the Senate-confirmed Deputy Attorney General, who--you guessed it--reports to the Attorney General, also confirmed. How much more oversight do we need for one man?….Simply put, this is a prime example of the type of amendment that slows the Senate down, the type of amendment that is really aimed at preventing the passage of this bill. The number of Senate-confirmed positions has increased by hundreds over the last few decades. As you know, this proliferation has slowed the confirmation process to a near standstill. What used to be a flowing, functioning faucet now trickles. This position is one of those midlevel positions that should be removed to free up our process so we can focus our time on the positions that are more senior, that do not report to so many other levels of Senate-confirmed positions. Removing Senate confirmation for this position does not in any way weaken our constitutional advice and consent power or give any extra power to the president. This power was given to us to be used to confirm the most senior policymaking positions, and the President has power to appoint his midlevel and lower level appointees.”
The Senate rejected this amendment by a vote of 41-57. Voting “yea” were 41 Republicans. All 53 Democrats present and 4 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have required the Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.