The Justice Department trails all Cabinet agencies in percentage of occupied Senate-confirmed positions, according to data compiled by an independent group that tracks government personnel.
Two caveats, before we continue: The data, from the The White House Transition Project, disregard U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals in the field, and it counts term-limited positions, such as FBI Director, as vacancies, even if they haven’t expired.
So, of the 37 Washington-based positions subject to Senate approval, five are held by officials who were confirmed during the Bush administration and are still serving terms. They include members of the U.S. Parole Commission and the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, and the aforementioned Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller III.
That leaves us with 32 other DOJ posts, 10 of which have been filled. That’s a 31 percent confirmation rate — still the lowest, behind the Treasury Department (36 percent) and the Department of Health and Human Services (40 percent), according to the WHTP. The data are current as of Sept. 16 — day 240 of the Obama administration.
President Barack Obama has sent 15 DOJ nominations to the Senate (again, excluding U.S. Attorneys or U.S. Marshals). Let’s do some quick accounting.
- Attorney General Eric Holder (confirmed on Feb. 2)
- Deputy Attorney General David Ogden (confirmed on March 12)
- Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli (confirmed on March 12)
- Solicitor General Elena Kagan (confirmed on March 19)
- David Kris, Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division (confirmed on March 25)
- Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division (confirmed April 20)
- Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division (confirmed April 20)
- Tony West, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, (confirmed April 20)
- Ron Weich, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legislative Affairs (confirmed April 29)
- Cranston Mitchell, Commissioner, U.S. Parole Commission (confirmed Aug. 7)
Reported out of committee but awaiting a Senate vote:
- Dawn Johnsen for Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel (nominated Feb. 11)
- Thomas Perez for Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division (nominated March 31)
- Mary Smith for Assistant Attorney General, Tax Division (nominated April 20)
- Christopher Schroeder for Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Policy (nominated June 4)
Awaiting a committee vote:
- Ignacia Moreno for Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division (nominated June 8th)
- Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs (nominated Sept. 14)
Terry Sullivan, executive Director of the WHTP, said President George W. Bush had filled about 46 percent of the DOJ’s Senate-confirmed positions by this time in his first year, though the number is likely a bit high. (See caveat No. 2 above.)
At that time in the Bush administration, the department had the third-lowest confirmation rate. The Treasury Department and the Department of Transportation were faring worse.
Sullivan, who teaches political science at UNC Chapel Hill, said the difference between the two Justice Departments — in terms of staffing — is negligible.
“That’s pretty much the statisical range,” he said.