Appointment Process in the News

This page provides readers a source for recent news regarding the Appointments Process, whether it be newspaper articles, events, or interviews. Please glance through the listings to find a piece you are interested in.

WHY TRUMP STILL HASN'T NAMED A LEADER FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS With confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s Cabinet set to start this week, the president-elect still has not chosen a leader for the Department of Veterans Affairs, an agency he vowed on the campaign trail to significantly shake up.

It is not for lack of trying.

Trump has met with or considered about a dozen candidates to run the second-largest federal department. But none seems to have made the cut.

Of all the day-to-day operations of government that Trump railed against during his campaign, VA, an agency reeling from scandal, came under special scrutiny. Its management challenges are vast, and the president-elect’s promises to veterans to remake it daunting. Click here for the full article from the Washington Post.

THE CABINET WAS THE EASY PART. STAFFING (AND STEERING) THE BUREAUCRACY TAKES MUCH MORE WORK. With confirmation hearings starting, much of Washington’s focus will be on President-elect Donald Trump’s top-level appointments. But take note of reports that James Mattis, nominated to be the defense secretary, is feuding with Trump Tower over other jobs in the Pentagon. That’s a clue to the fact that Cabinet offices represent just the tip of the executive branch iceberg.

Brookings senior fellow Elaine Kamarck has broken down the astonishing 4,115 posts that need to be filled by the president. Many are on part-time commissions and the like. But about 800 are executive-level positions, some requiring Senate confirmation and some not. (These figures are from the Partnership for Public Service.) Click here for the full article from the Washington Post (1/10/17). 

ETHICS REPORTS LAG FOR TRUMP NOMINEES FACING CONFIRMATION HEARINGS THIS WEEK Key disclosure reports for four out of nine of Donald Trump’s nominees subject to Senate confirmation hearings this week had yet to be made public by late Monday, underscoring concerns from the Office of Government Ethics that it is being rushed to approve the documentation.

The first nomination hearing is slated for Tuesday, for attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, whose ethics report has been completed. But paperwork for some other nominees was not available. For example, the ethics report had yet to be made public for Betsy DeVos, the billionaire who is slated to head the Department of Education. Devos’s confirmation hearing was originally set for Wednesday, but was postponed on Monday night to Jan. 17. Click here for the full article from the Washington Post (1/9/17).

CRITICS SAY TRUMP APPOINTEES CAN DODGE A HUGE TAX BILL. THAT'S NOT THE CASE. “Not only is Donald Trump giving a gang of billionaires control of our government, he’s offering them a special tax break just for signing up.”

That was Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, last week criticizing what has been called a “loophole” in the tax code that allows government appointees to defer paying taxes on stock sales. These appointees — who currently include some of the wealthiest people in the country — are typically required to sell all of their stock in individual companies to comply with conflict-of-interest rules, and this tax-deferring aspect of a 1989 law is meant to help offset that requirement. Click here for the full article from the New York Times (1/9/17).

MY THREE MADDENING, FUTILE YEARS INSIDE THE BROKEN SENATE CONFIRMATION PROCESS The 114th Congress ended this week, and with it went the confirmation chances of more than 80 qualified men and women nominated to government positions at all levels. On this Going Nowhere list are Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and many others whose names had been put forward for less-exalted positions. I was one of them.

My concept of public service was framed by the civics of “Schoolhouse Rock”: A president nominates men and women who have particular skills and experience that qualify them to hold specific government positions. Backgrounds and references are checked, nominations are submitted, and the Senate consents or not to confirmation. The process is straightforward, civil, expeditious and based on merit. Click here for the full article from the Washington Post (1/6/17).

ETHICS OFFICIAL WARNS AGAINST CONFIRMATIONS BEFORE REVIEWS ARE COMPLETE A top ethics official has warned that plans to confirm Donald Trump’s top Cabinet choices before background examinations are complete are unprecedented and have overwhelmed government investigators responsible for the reviews.

The concerns prompted Democrats on Saturday to call for delaying the confirmation process, but Republicans signaled they are unlikely to budge on the eve of a slew of hearings in the Senate.

The Trump administration-in-waiting faces its first big test in coming days, with as many as seven nominees for Cabinet positions — many of them already the subject of questions about their qualifications — scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill. Click here for the full article from the Washington Post (1/7/17).

SENATE CONFIRMATION HEARINGS TO BEGIN WITHOUT ALL BACKGROUND CHECKS As Senate Republicans embark on a flurry of confirmation hearings this week, several of Donald J. Trump’s appointees have yet to complete the background checks and ethics clearances customarily required before the Senate begins to consider cabinet-level nominees.

Republicans, who are expected to hold up to five hearings on Wednesday alone, say they simply want to ensure that the new president has a team in place as soon as possible. “I believe all the president-elect’s cabinet appointments will be confirmed,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said.

But Democrats are calling for the process to be slowed and for the hearings to be spread out. That, they say, would allow more time to vet the nominees. “Our first overarching focus is getting tax returns and ethics forms,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota. Click here to read the full article from the New York Times (1/7/17).

TRUMP NOMINEES' FILINGS THREATEN TO OVERWHELM FEDERAL ETHICS OFFICE Rex W. Tillerson owns more than $50 million of Exxon Mobil stock, has earned an annual salary of $10 million and holds a range of positions — from director at the Boy Scouts of America to the managing director of a Texas horse and cattle ranch.

But Mr. Tillerson is prepared to resign from all those posts, sell all his stock and put much of his money into bland investments like Treasury bonds if he becomes secretary of state, according to an “ethics undertakings” memo he filed this week with the State Department. And, if he returns to the oil industry in the next decade, he could lose as much as $180 million. Click here to read the full article from the New York Times (1/6/17).

IN BREAK WITH PRECEDENT, OBAMA ENVOYS ARE DENIED EXTENSIONS PAST INAUGURATION DAY President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition staff has issued a blanket edict requiring politically appointed ambassadors to leave their overseas posts by Inauguration Day, according to several American diplomats familiar with the plan, breaking with decades of precedent by declining to provide even the briefest of grace periods.

The mandate — issued “without exceptions,” according to a terse State Department cable sent on Dec. 23, diplomats who saw it said — threatens to leave the United States without Senate-confirmed envoys for months in critical nations like Germany, Canada and Britain. In the past, administrations of both parties have often granted extensions on a case-by-case basis to allow a handful of ambassadors, particularly those with school-age children, to remain in place for weeks or months. Click here to read the full article from the New York Times (1/5/17).

A PRESIDENT WITHOUT AN ADMINISTRATION President-elect Donald Trump will take the reins of the federal government on January 20. How many people he will have by his side on that date is very much in question.

The Trump transition is substantially behind the pace set eight years ago by Barack Obama’s team, and a late start to vetting Cabinet nominees for security clearances and financial conflicts of interest threatens to leave many senior posts vacant when Trump assumes the presidency in just two-and-a-half weeks. The delays, which were described by people familiar with the transition as well as several congressional aides, could hamper the new president’s ability to deliver the swift change he has promised in Washington. Click here to read the full article from The Atlantic.

DONALD TRUMP'S WEALTHY CABINET PICKS UNDERGO FINANCIAL SCRUTINY HE DIDN'T FACE For the billionaires, the multimillionaires and the plain well-off people whom President-elect Donald J. Trump is choosing for his cabinet, the first step to office will be the sort of grilling he didn’t face — on potential business conflicts of interest and, for some, tax returns — courtesy of the Senate sleuths who have taken their toll in the past. President Obama’s first Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, was nearly derailed in 2009. His first choice for secretary of health and human services, Tom Daschle, did not make it through that year. Click here for the full article from the New York Times (12/12/16).

IT'S NOT JUST THE CABINET: TRUMP'S TRANSITION TEAM MAY NEED TO FIND ABOUT 4,100 APPOINTEES When President Obama leaves office on Jan. 20, so will his appointees, which means President-elect Donald Trump can fill more than 4,000 vacancies by presidential appointment in his new administration. Positions range from high-profile advisers and Cabinet posts to ambassadors, small agency directors and special assistants. Team Trump has already received more than 65,000 résumés from job seekers. These are the positions listed in the Office of Personnel Management’s newly released Plum Book. Trump has said he will trim the bureaucracy, so some may not be filled. (The book actually lists about 9,000 jobs, but about 5,000 of those are nonpolitical and filled with civil servants who don’t usually leave when the president does.) Click here for the full article from the Washington Post (12/5/16). 

THE PLUM BOOK IS HERE FOR THOSE ANGLING FOR JOB'S IN TRUMP'S WASHINGTON The biggest Help Wanted ad in eight years materialized in Washington Monday morning: A plum-colored paperback listing 9,000 political jobs for those who want to work in Donald Trump’s administration. The 226-page Plum Book — so called for the desirable jobs that change hands at the end of a presidential term — lists every patronage position in the executive and legislative branches that could be filled by Trump supporters. They’re the policymaking and support positions that will form the spine of the real estate developer’s new government, and they’ll be vacated by the Obama administration by Jan. 20. Click here for the full article from the Washington Post (12/4/16).

CAN TRUMP BROADEN HIS GOVERNMENT BEYOND HIS LOYALISTS? - AND DOES HE WANT TO? Nowhere did Donald Trump’s candidacy inspire more trepidation or alarm than in the national security community, inhabited by many Republicans who vehemently denounced their party’s nominee as dangerously unfit to be commander in chief. Now, as President-elect Trump begins assembling his government, scores of former senior national security officials, foreign policy specialists and career civil servants are wrestling with a dilemma: refuse government service or join the administration of the 45th president? Click here for the full article from the Washington Post (11/12/16).

TRUMP'S HIRES WILL SET THE COURSE OF HIS PRESIDENCY “Busy day planned in New York,” President-elect Donald J. Trump said on Twitter on Friday morning, two days after his astonishing victory. “Will soon be making some very important decisions on the people who will be running our government!” If anything, that understates the gravity of the personnel choices Mr. Trump and his transition team are weighing. Rarely in the history of the American presidency has the exercise of choosing people to fill jobs had such a far-reaching impact on the nature and priorities of an incoming administration. Click here for the full article from the New York Times (11/12/16).

A SINGLE SENATOR STYMIES THE EXPORT-IMPORT BANK Thursday is an ignominious anniversary for the government agency that helps finance foreigners' purchases of American exports. Thanks to a single senator, it has been a full year since the 82-year-old Export-Import Bank could approve deals exceeding $10 million, a limit that rules out high-dollar deals on airplanes, power generators, heavy equipment, and nuclear reactions. Click here to read the full article from the New York Times (6/27/16).

SENATOR MAKES GOOD ON VOW TO BLOCK OPM NOMINEE Sen. David Vitter on Thursday made good on an earlier threat to place a hold on President Obama's nomination of Beth Cobert to move from acting to permanent status as director of the Office of Personnel Management. "Time for OPM to Fess Up on Washington's Obamacare Exemption," Vitter proclaimed in a statement declaring that he will block her confirmation floor vote until Cobert responds to his request for information. Click here to read the full article from GovExec (2/25/16).

DR. ROBERT CALIFF WINS SENATE CONFIRMATION TO RUN F.D.A. President Obama's pick to run the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Robert M. Califf, was finally confirmed for the job by the Senate on Wednesday, in a vote of 89 to 4, after weeks of opposition from a handful of lawmakers who had blocked his nomination over what they said was the agency's poor record on prescription painkillers. Click here for the full article from the New York Times (2/24/16).

OBAMA ANNOUNCES HIS INTENT TO NOMINATE JOHN B. KING JR. TO OFFICIALLY TAKE THE ROLE OF EDUCATION SECRETARY President Obama has nominated John B. King Jr. to officially lead the Department of Education, where he has served as acting secretary since the start of the year. Officials at the White House had said before the announcement that the president was encouraged by the bipartisan support King has received in Congress, especially the commitment Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has made for a speedy consideration of his nomination. Click here for the full article from the Washington Post (2/11/16).

SENATE APPROVES OPM NOMINATION A Senate panel on Wednesday advanced the nomination of Beth Cobert to serve as director of the Office of Personnel Management. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee easily reported out the nomination of Cobert, who has been serving as the acting OPM director since Katherine Archuleta resigned last summer amid the massive breach of federal employee data. Cobert's nomination now heads to the full Senate for consideration. Click here for the full article from GovExec (2/10/16).

Recent Studies

Virginia Tech Report from the Workshop on "Appointee Politics and the Implications for Government Effectives"...
The Partnership for Public Service Ready to Govern: Improving the Presidential Transition (January 2010) Twentieth Century Fund Task Force of the Presidential Appointment Process (1996) Report of the...