Short of dealing with a crisis, a president’s largest responsibility at the start of an administration is to fill the highest levels of government with hand-picked appointees. Doing so enables the chief executive to steer the massive ship of state in the direction that advances their policy priorities. Throughout the 2020 presidential campaign, candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden repeatedly pledged to appoint a team that looked like America. Brookings has been monitoring this commitment by noting the pace, gender and race/ethnicity of his Senate-confirmed nominees, and we have now passed the 100th day of his tenure, a popular moment to take stock and assess personnel appointments.
Though the 100-day mark is an artificial milestone at best and is not predictive of future progress, it is a good time to note the pace and see where new leadership has taken the helm across the fifteen departments. Expectations during this period, however, should be tempered by the fact that the president’s first 100 days are by no means equal to the Senate’s first 100 days. For starters, the Senate was on recess for three weeks during the first 100 days. Excluding weekends and Fridays (since only one confirmation occurred on a Friday), there were approximately 47 days when the Senate could have confirmed President Biden’s nominees. In short, the Senate’s executive calendar has a profound impact on staffing the government.