The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services does actually have a genuine, confirmed secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell.
But the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the arm of HHS that runs HealthCare.gov, has had an acting administrator, Andrew Slavitt, since March 2015 — when dinosaurs roamed the earth and some big health insurers were still talking about how well their exchange plan programs were doing.
Now Donald Trump, the president-elect, is gearing up to have his own nominees put through the Senate confirmation wringer.
I like the idea of constitutional checks and balances and would prefer to see them all stay in place.
A significant, energetic minority in the Senate probably should have the ability to block specific administration nominees who appear to be intent on eating baby seals for breakfast, or who turn out to have been running international drug cartels.
But I think the American people deserve for Republicans and Democrats to figure out an informal mechanism for ensuring that federal agencies can have “permanent,” confirmed managers, even in an age of morbid gridlock.
An idea: Any time senators block an administration agency nominee, they should have to provide a list of five alternative candidates who will have at least the grudging support of 10 senators from their side of the aisle.