Shinseki is, to put it bluntly, toast…
The White House offered tepid support Thursday for embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, skirting questions on whether he’ll soon be fired.
White House press secretary Jay Carney repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether Shinseki retained the confidence of the president.
Carney said the president believed Shinseki had “performed overall well” and “put his heart and soul” into providing care for veterans. But he also emphasized that the president was waiting to see the results of an internal investigation led by White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors.
“When it comes to the current situation, the inquiries and the investigations and some of the allegations, the president wants to see the results of these reports,” Carney said. “And he, as you know, made clear that he believes there ought to be accountability once we establish all the facts.”
The White House knew Carney’s briefing would be dominated by questions surrounding Shinseki, who many observers think will be gone from the Veterans Affairs Department by the end of the week.(The Hill)
Considering the groundswell at present, one wonders how Gen. Shinseki made it this far, given both what we know about the current VA scandal and the VA Inspector General’s report, released late Wednesday night. The irony here is two-fold: (1)this is but another in a long line of scandals regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs and (2)it begs the question as to why this administration has not – yet, anyways – fired Gen. Shinseki yet. For what it’s worth, the answer to the second part is this: given the embittered politics in Washington at present, its’ a no-win situation for President Obama in regards to the VA secretary – if he fires Shinseki, he gives his political opponents ammunition to use both against Shinseki’s successor and against Democrats nationally; if he doesn’t fire him – or worse, doesn’t fire him right away, he gives them the same political ammunition as before, plus it puts Democrats trying to hold onto seats nationally in the politically difficult position of having to either defend Obama’s choice or turning on him and calling it out on it, which then puts those Democrats at risk of upsetting their base, which then hurts them at election time.
My advice to the administration: get Secy. Shinseki out as soon as possible but do so in a manner that doesn’t appear like you’re throwing him under the proverbial bus.
Talk about driving a shank into the side of your base…for what it’s worth, Crooks & Liars is dead-on right with their analysis of who could potentially become the next chair of the Federal Reserve (here’s a hint: it ain’t either Larry Summers or Janet Yellin that the Obama Administration is considering)…quoting:
How insulting is this? Are all women interchangeable? You could make the argument that this nomination would place a woman in eventual contention for Fed chairman — but we already have a talented, experienced woman in contention: Janet Yellin. And Larry Summers? His record is execrable (read this from Greg Palast):
The White House is considering nominating a top female official at the Treasury Department to fill one of the vacant seats at the Federal Reserve, according to two people familiar with the process, amid criticism over the role of women in the Obama administration.
As undersecretary for international affairs, Lael Brainard is one of the most highly ranked — and most visible — female members of President Obama’s economic team. Her name has long been circulated in the insular world of Fed watchers as a potential candidate to sit on the central bank’s influential board of governors.
But her conversations with the administration have ramped up recently, and she is seriously considering accepting the nomination, according to the two people, who requested anonymity to discuss personnel issues. The White House declined to comment.
Brainard’s nomination could help solve a public-relations problem for the White House, which has been assailed over the lack of women in premier posts. Obama is weighing whether to name Lawrence H. Summers, a close former adviser, to the top job at the Fed — a move that would mean passing over Janet Yellen, the vice chair at the central bank whom many once considered a shoo-in.(Washington Post)
Now, why the reference in the opening line of the post? Well, there’s a large consensus within liberal and progressive circles that instead of appointing former Treasury Secretary (and all-around jerkass) Larry Summers to the Fed, with the opinion that current Fed vice-chair Janet Yellin get the nomination instead. Doing this, it is believed, would help dampen criticism against the administration in terms of who it hires to Cabinet-level posts. Yet, bringing in Lael Brainard, currently an under-Secretary within Treasury, could very well bring that criticism right back into the foreground because while it would be seen by the average person as fulfilling a promise of the administration to diversify the Cabinet, most political wonks (and a good chunk of the base, also) were expecting Obama to pick Yellin for the post. By picking Brainard, it could potentially be seen as the administration giving its’ base the proverbial middle-finger, as if to say, “we’ll do what we think is right, not what our base thinks is right”.
For once, the Senate actually got around to doing its’ damned job…will miracles never cease?
The Senate on Wednesday approved President Obama’s nominee to run Medicare and Medicaid, Marilyn B. Tavenner, providing the agency with its first confirmed chief in six and a half years.
The 91-to-7 vote showed broad support for Ms. Tavenner, a former state health official in Virginia, who was endorsed by Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House Republican leader.
As administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Ms. Tavenner, 61, will have a huge role in carrying out major provisions of the new health care law, including the expansion of Medicaid and the creation of marketplaces to sell subsidized private insurance.
The agency already provides health insurance to more than 100 million people and spends more than $800 billion a year, which is substantially more than the Defense Department budget.
Through its payment policies and the standards it sets for doctors, hospitals and other health care providers, the Medicare agency has a pervasive influence on health care in America, out of proportion to the money it spends.
Fierce disagreements over health policy had made confirmation difficult for any nominee for the Medicare job. Ms. Tavenner, a nurse who worked for more than two decades at the Hospital Corporation of America, will be the first Senate-confirmed administrator since Dr. Mark B. McClellan stepped down in October 2006.(New York Times)
There were a few who voted against her confirmation(all Republicans if you’re wondering)…
- Mitch McConnell – KY
- Jim Risch – ID
- Michael Crapo – ID
- Ted Cruz – TX
- Rand Paul – KY
- Ron Johnson – WI
- Mike Lee – UT
What’s interesting about this confirmation vote wasn’t so much the fact that there was actually a confirmation vote in the Senate(a rare thing nowadays) but that it involved a nominee who is actually both liked and respected by those voting on her nomination, which in this powder-keg political environment we live in these days is a rare thing indeed…
Two more adminstration posts were announced this week by the White House, for Transportation Secretary and for a federal housing post; the first of these was the announcement that outgoing Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx has been picked to become the next Secretary of Transportation, which is currently run by former congressman Ray LaHood. Foxx’s appointment should be a boon for transit supporters considering his efforts to expand transit options in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area over the past few years. On this one, barring anything spectacular, there shouldn’t be any problems on this nomination.
The second one, though, might be….yesterday, Pres. Obama nominated Charlotte-area Rep. Mel Watt(D-NC 12) to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Now, there’s two reason why this nomination might run into problems over in the Senate. The first of these is an obvious no-brainer: the FHFA supervises both Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, government-supported agencies which didn’t exactly account themselves very well during the late 2000’s mortgage crisis and which still both receive flak over to this day. Throw in the fact that Congressman Watt will be running a very technical agency despite not having a lot of banking/finance experience and you have the makings of a grade-A train wreck; to be fair, though, in this day and age, I’m not too concerned about this reason since most every nomination goes through a major vetting process…if there had been any concerns or problems with Watt’s background in this regard, they’d found it by now.
There’s also a third reason why Watt’s nomination might run into the proverbial rocks’n’shoals of the Senate confirmation process: since Sept. 2009, the FHFA has been run by Acting Director Edward DeMarco, a Bush-43 appointee and word in Washington circles is that Senate Republicans are loathe to allow Obama to replace him with someone of his own choosing; case in point being when Republicans back in 2010 blocked the nomination of NC Banking Commissioner Joseph Smith to the post. However, considering that Obama has the support of former Bank of America major-domo Hugh McCall and former Clinton-era advisor Erskine Bowles, for starters, Watt might not have as rough a go at the nominating process as Smith did.
..and another piece of President Obama’s cabinet looks set to be filled as reports are that Asst. Atty. General Thomas Perez is expected to be nominated to replace outgoing Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to head the Dept. of Labor…
Seeking to fill yet another second-term Cabinet vacancy, President Barack Obama on Monday will nominate Thomas Perez, an assistant attorney general, to be the next secretary of labor, the White House said.
If confirmed by the Senate, Perez, who has been head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for 3½ years, would take over the Labor Department as Obama undertakes several worker-oriented initiatives, including an overhaul of immigration laws and an increase in the minimum wage.
Before taking the job as assistant attorney general, Perez was secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, which enforces state consumer rights, workplace safety and wage and hour laws.
In choosing the 51-year-old Perez, the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Obama would be placing an already high-ranking Hispanic official in a Cabinet slot. Perez, a lawyer with a degree from Harvard Law School, would replace Hilda Solis, a former California congresswoman and the nation’s first Hispanic labor secretary.(MSN Politics)
While his nomination is supported by numerous labor & civil rights groups, there could be a spot of trouble during the confirmation process….
Perez’s nomination has been expected for weeks, and comes with vigorous support from labor unions and Latino groups.
But a newly released report by the Justice Department’s inspector general is likely to provide fodder for Republicans who say the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has been too politicized.
The report, released last week, said Perez gave incomplete testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights when he said the department’s political leadership was not involved in the decision to dismiss three of the four defendants in a lawsuit the Bush administration brought against the New Black Panther Party.
The report also concluded that Perez did not intentionally mislead the commission and that the department acted properly.(MSN Politics)
For what’s it worth, I don’t see this as much of a problem; both the Justice Department and Civil Rights Commission dismissed the (respective) criminal & civil complaints of voter suppression against the New Black Panther Party from the 2008 election. If Republicans do threaten to make a stink about it, my suggestion to both Democrats & the Obama Administration is to remind them about the U.S. Attorneys’ Dismissal Scandal and ask them whether they really want to go down that road once more.
Other than that, as I said above, I don’t see much in the way of obstacles to Perez becoming the next Secretary of Labor; I could be wrong, of course, but that’s how I see it at the moment.
President Obama filled three more positions within his Second Administration cabinet earlier today, nominating the following individuals…
- EPA official Gina McCarthy to lead the Envirnomental Protection Agency
- MIT scientist Ernest Moniz to head the Department of Eneregy
- current Wal-Mart Foundation director Sylvia Mathews Burrell to become White House Budget Chief
In the words of President Obama during today’s announcement…
“They’re going to be making sure we’re investing in American energy, that we’re doing everything we can to combat the threat of climate change, that we’re going to be creating jobs and economic opportunity,” Obama said of McCarthy and Moniz. “They are going to be a great team.”(MSN Politics)
Some background on the three nominations….
- Burwell is (a) Washington veteran, having served in several posts during the Clinton administration, including deputy OMB director. She currently heads the Wal-Mart Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the retail giant, and previously served as president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program.
Moniz, 68, oversees MIT’s Energy Initiative, a research group that focuses on innovative ways to produce power while curbing greenhouse gas emissions. But unlike outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu, he is also well-versed in the ways of Washington, having served as the Energy Department’s undersecretary in the Clinton administration. Moniz has also advised Obama on central components of the administration’s energy plan, including a retooling of the country’s stalled nuclear waste program, energy research and development, and unconventional gas.
In nominating McCarthy to be the nation’s top environmental steward, Obama is promoting a climate change champion and a 25-year veteran of environmental policy and politics. McCarthy has served under both Republicans and Democrats, and is known for a matter-of-fact approach appreciated by both businesses and environmental advocacy groups. Among her past bosses: former Massachusetts governor and Obama’s Republican presidential opponent Mitt Romney, for whom she was a special adviser on climate and environmental issues.
All-in-all, I think these appointments are both sound decisions and all three will help add to the overall diversity of Obama’s second cabinet, something that some have criticized over the past few months. Of course, it does remain to be seen whether the Senate confirms the nominations but from what I can find, these nominations should cut through the Senate without much trouble..
While the Senate took forever to confirm Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense yesterday, his counterpart over at Treasury, former White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew had a much easier time being confirmed earlier today as the Senate voted 71-26 to confirm Lew for the Treasury post…
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed Jack Lew as President Barack Obama’s new Treasury secretary, putting the former White House chief of staff in the middle of a bitter political fight over the government’s budget.
Senators backed Lew with a 71-26 vote. All of the chamber’s 53 Democrats voted for him. Some Republicans had expressed misgivings about Lew’s perks from previous employers Citigroup and New York University.
Lew’s most pressing task will be to find a compromise to lessen the economic blow from $85 billion in government spending cuts that are set to kick in Friday.
But two more budget deadlines will quickly follow. Funds for most government operations expire March 27, and the national debt will hit the U.S. government’s borrowing limit on May 19, setting the stage for a default unless an agreement can be secured to raise the ceiling again.(MSN Politics)