Editorial: End the foot-dragging on Trump's nominees
A president should have the team around him of his choosing to help run the government. But as President Donald Trump pointed out in his State of the Union address Tuesday, halfway through his term he has not been able to fill a vast number of key presidential appointments.
Nearly 40 percent of top Senate-confirmable positions are still vacant. As of late last month, the actual number was 271 vacancies of 704 nominations.
The empty posts include 70 of 170 in the State Department, 14 of 60 in the Defense Department, and 17 of 29 in the Justice Department.
And one-quarter of Trump's 15-member cabinet is serving in temporary capacity, awaiting confirmation.
Obviously, having so many essential offices left empty for so long makes it much harder for the president to get things done, and contributes to the perception of an administration in chaos.
Some of the positions are empty because of the rapidly revolving door of Trump appointees. In just the last two months of 2018, four cabinet members resigned.
Other top offices are vacant because the president has been slow to submit nominations or has poorly vetted the ones he has offered.
But a larger number of nominees have fallen victim to the Democratic resistance movement.
In the first year-and-a-half of Trump's tenure, the time when an administration is normally filling out its roster, Senate Democrats called for 79 cloture votes of presidential nominees. That compares to just 17 such voters for all of President Barack Obama's first term.
The situation is particularly acute in the State Department, where the nominations of 41 ambassadors are stuck in the Senate. For another 18 countries, Trump hasn't yet picked a nominee.
Among those ambassador nominees awaiting confirmation votes are two from Michigan: builder John Rakolta, picked for the United Arab Emirates, and car dealer David Fisher, selected for Morocco.
It is both disrespectful and dangerous to leave key ambassadorships empty. The United States lacked an ambassador in Turkey or Saudi Arabia during the flare-up over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
There's no sense playing the blame game. Clearly, Senate Democrats find political value in slow walking Trump nominees. And the president has been far less than competent in selecting qualified nominees to staff his administration.
But the good of the country demands that these top government offices be filled by nominees who have been vetted and confirmed by the Senate.
Trump should do his part by selected qualified individuals for the posts that are still lacking nominees. There's no excuse to not have selected candidates for essential jobs this deep into his term.
The Senate, then, should knock of the gamesmanship and give hearings and votes to Trump's nominees. If there's a case to be made that a nominee is not qualified, make it.
But otherwise, give the president the lieutenants he wants to help him do his job.