Bush moves to retain recess-appointed ICE chief

President Bush on Tuesday renominated the chief of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, who was put in her position through a controversial recess appointment last January, to continue in the job.

With Democrats in control of the new Congress, Julie Myers likely will face an even tougher confirmation process than she did when Bush first tapped her in 2005. Democrats have questioned her background and the adequacy of her experience.

At the time of Myers' recess appointment, Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he had "serious questions about her ability" and was "concerned that the president has handed a key appointment to someone who is not prepared."

Reid's office declined to comment Wednesday on Myers' renomination. ICE press officials did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Multiple Capitol Hill sources said Wednesday that it remains too early to gauge how lawmakers will react to Myers this time around, but they acknowledged that her recess appointment frustrated some. Her new confirmation hearings have yet to be scheduled.

Supporters of the Kansan and niece of former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers have said that her management experience and relationship with the White House and the Homeland Security Department made her well-suited for the job. She is also the wife of DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff's chief of staff.

Chad Boudreaux, who served as ICE's deputy chief of staff when Myers joined the agency last year, said she worked tirelessly to meet mandates such as ending the catch-and-release tactic of giving apprehended illegal immigrants a court summons instead of detaining them.

"She just transformed that agency," he said. "She played a large part in some of the creative ideas."

But workers within ICE's Federal Protective Service and its Office of Detention and Removal were critical of the administration's move to seek Myers' reappointment. They said she has focused too heavily on investigators and has given less thought to the needs of other employees such as detention officers.

"She's pretty much given [ICE investigative units] everything they've asked for," one agency source said.

ICE was criticized from multiple angles last year. Private sector and government reports pointed to flaws in the agency's financial management, and an insider alleged the agency violated federal appropriations law through a funding transfer. A budget shortfall at the agency's Federal Protective Service and the elimination of police retention pay also were the subject of concern.

Russ Knocke, a DHS spokesman, said Myers has "demonstrated outstanding leadership and vision during her tenure, and has established a new and powerful federal law enforcement agency." He urged the Senate to move quickly to confirm her.

Bush on Tuesday renominated several other key officials the Senate did not approve last session. He again named Susan Dudley, a scholar at George Mason University's Mercatus Center in Alexandria, Va., to head the Office of Management and Budget's regulatory affairs branch.

Environmental and other interest groups have criticized anti-regulatory stances Dudley has taken in her research. But at a Senate hearing in November, the nominee told lawmakers she recognized the distinction between her academic work and her potential role at OMB.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee never voted on Dudley, however. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, former chairwoman of the panel, cited time constraints and significant opposition to the nominee. Dudley would likely have an even harder time in the new Democrat-controlled Senate.

If confirmed, she would replace 17-year OMB veteran Steven Aitken, who has headed the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs on an acting basis since last summer.

Bush also renamed David Palmer, chief of a litigation section in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Palmer would fill a vacancy on the five-person panel created by the late-August departure of former Chairwoman Cari Dominguez, but would serve as a commissioner rather than in the lead position, which has been filled by former Vice Chairwoman Naomi Earp.

Amelia Gruber contributed to this report.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec