In May 2007, when I was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve as deputy secretary of Health and Human Services, a White House colleague came into my office with sobering counsel. On average, he said, it takes almost nine months for a nominee to an executive-branch position to get a vote in the Senate. Just when and whether the nominee gets that vote depends a great deal on the Senate’s vacation schedule. The likelihood of confirmation, he explained, increases markedly just before one of the various congressional recesses (such as those for Memorial Day and Independence Day, or the August break). At any other time, a nominee’s chances of being confirmed for any non-secretarial post are essentially nil.
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