On June 12, 2014, the Senate had just finished confirming eight presidential nominations to serve as federal financial regulators in less than a month. In doing so, the Senate “cleared the deck” of all its financial regulatory nominations for the first time since early 2010. One year later, vacancies at these agencies are slowly piling up and little action has been taken to fill them.
There are currently five vacancies at independent financial regulatory agencies: two Federal Reserve Board (Fed) governorships, a seat on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), a directorship at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the spot of vice chairman for supervision at the Fed.
In addition, two more vacancies will reportedly open up soon on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). According to these reports, Democrat Luis Aguilar, whose term in office expired on June 5, will step down soon, and Republican Daniel Gallagher will leave office when his replacement is confirmed. Gallagher’s term will end on June 5, 2016.
According to the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Nominations Tracker, the seat on the CFTC has been vacant since August 2014, 307 days ago, while the two governorships on the Fed have been vacant for over a year, one for 455 days and the other for 379 days. There has not been a single nominee for the position of Fed vice chairman for supervision since it was created 1786 days ago. The vacancy on the FDIC just opened last week when Jeremiah Norton stepped down, although the term to which he had been confirmed had expired almost two years ago. BPC research in 2013 showed that the average length of time for a president to decide on a nomination was 240 days.
So far, President Obama has sent one nomination to the Senate, that of Allan Landon to be a governor at the Fed. No significant opposition has been voiced to Landon’s nomination but 155 days since his nomination, no hearing has been scheduled. This is already longer than the 137 days it has taken on average for the Senate to resolve nominations in the BPC research mentioned above. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) has said that he wants to consider both Fed governor nominations as a pair.
It is a Washington truism that the closer presidents get to the end of their terms, the less likely the Senate is to move their nominations forward. If the administration wants to fill these important posts, it is working against the clock.