[Image courtesy of doctormacro]
A few weeks ago, a friend and colleague emailed to ask me if the Senate's recent changes to the cloture rules on nominations meant that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission - vacant since the resignation of two Republican commissioners in late 2011 - would finally get some new members.
I replied that it was highly doubtful, saying that I didn't think Congress was even paying attention to the EAC anymore and that I thought the Senate would save its new firepower for higher-profile posts.
I was wrong.
This week, the Senate Rules Committee announced that it will be holding a hearing next week to consider the nominations of two potential Democratic commissioners, Myrna Perez and Thomas Hicks.
If the nominations go forward and the two are confirmed, it will restore the agency to half-strength at least for the first time in two years. It's not clear what exactly the agency will be able to do, given that three votes are necessary for any formal action and no GOP nominees are yet forthcoming - but at the very least it may allow the advisory committees constituted under HAVA to resume their meetings after a halt in early 2012. Also, as Rick Hasen notes at Election Law Blog:
[I]t will be harder to call the EAC a zombie agency if it has two commissioners out there speaking for the agency and doing things.
It isn't clear if this hearing signals new interest on Capitol Hill in the EAC or if it's just part the majority's demonstration of its powers during life after cloture. Still, it's an interesting development, especially as the President's commission prepares to release its report after six months of hearings.
As always ... stay tuned.