Appointee Watch: Trump, Senate Trade Barbs

President Trump took to Twitter on Monday to blame Democrats for the slow pace of appointment to key federal positions.

“Dems are taking forever to approve my people, including Ambassadors,” Trump wrote. “They are nothing but OBSTRUCTIONISTS! Want approvals.”

But reporting by Politico suggests the lack of people in top agency positions stems from the White House lagging behind in sending nominations to the Senate.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on May 12 said that new vetting procedures would lead to nominees moving through the confirmation process quicker. “There is a method to this in terms of the nominees who are getting put out now, and I think you should expect to see more and more go through,” Spicer said at the time. “The process this time around is a little bit different. We’re actually going through the Office of Government Ethics and FBI clearances before announcing most of these individuals.”

But while recent appointees have indeed been formally nominated more quickly, several are still outstanding and senators are growing impatient.

“Our members are frustrated,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told Politico. “We’re kind of waiting. In many cases, there’s nobody on deck.”

According to the Washington Post and the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, 39 appointees have been confirmed for 559 key positions requiring Senate confirmation. Meanwhile, 79 people have been announced or formally nominated and 441 jobs remain vacant.

Recent nominees to federal agencies include:

Defense: 

  • Richard V. Spencer, secretary of the Navy. Spencer most recently was a managing partner at investment firm Fall Creek Management and has spent the last 12 years in the finance industry. He served as a captain in the Marine Corps and for five years on the Defense Business Board.

  • Owen West, assistant secretary for special operations and low intensity conflict. West most recently worked at Goldman Sachs, managing international risk trading in natural gas. He served in the Marine Corps as an infantry platoon commander, a reconnaissance platoon leader and a combat advisor, serving two tours in Iraq.

  • Charles Douglas Stimson, Navy general counsel. Stimson is a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, where he leads research on national security law issues. He is also a captain in the Judge Advocate Generals Corps in the Navy reserve. He served under President George W. Bush as the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for detainee affairs.

Education: 

  • Carlos Muñiz, general counsel. Muñiz is an attorney and consultant with experience as Florida’s deputy attorney general and deputy general counsel to Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.

  • Petter Louis Oppenheim, assistant secretary for legislation and congressional affairs. Oppenheim is the education policy director and counsel for Republicans on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. He worked on negotiations for a number of bills, including the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014.

Health and Human Services: 

  • Robert Charrow, general counsel. Charrow is an attorney specializing in Administrative Procedure Act issues and health care. He previously served as principal deputy general counsel at HHS.

Homeland Security: 

  • David Pekoske, assistant secretary for the Transportation Security Administration. Pekoske is a retired vice commandant in the Coast Guard, where he served as the service’s second in command and chief operating officer. Previously, he held posts as commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area and Coast Guard Defense Forces West.

Justice: 

  • Brian Allen Benczkowski, assistant attorney general, criminal division. Benczkowski is a partner at a law firm that focuses on litigation and white collar criminal defense, and he has previously worked as the Republican staff director for the Senate Judiciary Committee. He also served as chief of staff for the Office of the Attorney General and Office of the Deputy Attorney General.

Office of Special Counsel: 

  • Henry Kerner, special counsel. Kerner has served on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee under Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. Kerner previously spent nearly 20 years as a prosecutor in California, and was staff director for Sen. John McCain on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investgiations.

Overseas Private Investment Corporation: 

  • Ray Washburne, president. Washburne is the president of Charter Holdings, a real estate investment company in Dallas and has a stake in a group of Texas restaurants.

  • David Bohigian, executive vice president. Bohigian is managing director of Pluribus Ventures, a company that advises financial services firms and other corporations. He previously served as an assistant secretary of Commerce.

Transportation: 

  • Steven Bradbury, general counsel. Bradbury is an attorney with experience in automotive safety and airline competition issues, as well as on regulations, rulemaking and judicial review of government agencies. From 2005 until 2009, he ran the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department.

Treasury: 

  • Joseph Otting, comptroller of the currency. Otting has spent many years working for several regional banks, including as president and CEO of OneWest Bank N.A. and vice chairman of U.S. Bancorp.

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