Published November 1983 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd A Second Look Every four years, American voters have the chance to elect a President for our country, by reelecting the sitting President or selecting a new one. And whether voters re-elect a President or choose a new one, their votes are cast for a variety of reasons; they agree with his policies in one area or another, they feel comfortable with his style or what he stands for, they like his position on a particular issue. The point is that we have a choice every four years on who leads our country, and that choice is central to our democratic process. When a President wins a second four-year term, however, the Senate does not have a chance to reconfirm or reject his top cabinet and cabinet-level officials who have such an important role in running our government. I think the Senate should have a say in whether a re-elected President's top people remain in their jobs for the President's second term, and to accomplish that I will soon introduce a bill in the Senate requiring the reconfirmation of the highest-level appointed officials in the government. Those officials would include all cabinet Secretaries; the directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Arms Control Disarmament Agency; the U.S. Trade Representative; and the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. By requiring the reconfirmation of cabinet-level appointees, the Senate would have a chance to look over such appointive official's public record, to rate his or her job performance, and to determine if that official has been effective or ineffective in carrying out public policy. In recent years, instances have arisen in which a cabinet officer has received Senate confirmation, many times in the belief that a new President should be given wide latitude in choosing his own top people, and later has been less than effective in carrying out public policy. Top officials of our government who hold the important jobs of formulating and executing public policy should be as accountable as our President, and if these individuals are in a position to remain in office for another four years, I think the people's elected Senators should have the opportunity to review the record and to once again provide their advice and consent to a particular nominee's conduct and performance in office.