Appointee Watch: OPM Nominees Receive a Hearing, Drug Czar Pick Withdraws

Lack of a White House drug czar could make it harder to combat the opioid epidemic. Lack of a White House drug czar could make it harder to combat the opioid epidemic.

President Trump suffered another setback in his effort to fill key administration posts last week, as Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., withdrew his name from consideration for director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Marino came under fire this month following a report from The Washington Post and CBS News’ “60 Minutes” about his role in crafting a law that hobbled the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to prosecute major distributors of prescription painkillers, which have contributed to the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Trump is expected to formally declare in the coming days that the opioid crisis, which has led to thousands of cases of addiction and death in recent years, is a national emergency. The effort to combat that emergency could be complicated by the lack of a permanent director in the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

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On Capitol Hill, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held hearings last week for Office of Personnel Management director nominee Jeff Pon and deputy director nominee Michael Rigas.

But that was complicated by a threat from Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to hold up their confirmation votes unless the agency provides documentation regarding a controversial 2013 rule allowing members of Congress and their staff to purchase insurance on the D.C. Small Business Health Options Plan exchange and receive an employer subsidy. Lawmakers did not intend for Congress to be treated as a small business under Obamacare, the rule's critics argue. 

According to The Washington Post and the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, which have been keeping track of more than 600 administration jobs requiring Senate confirmation, 145 people have been confirmed to their posts. Another 186 candidates have been named or formally nominated, while 273 posts remain vacant.

In recent days, the White House has announced nominations at the following agencies:

Agency for International Development: Brock Bierman, assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia. Bierman was appointed by George W. Bush to be the first small state and rural advocate at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and he also served as the agency’s director of community preparedness. He previously was chief of staff and senior adviser to USAID’s Bureau for Europe and Eurasia.

Defense: Alex Beehler, assistant secretary of the Army for energy, installations and the environment. Beehler is the president of an independent environmental and energy consulting firm. He previously served at the Defense Department as acting deputy undersecretary for installations and environment, and he was assistant deputy undersecretary of defense.

James McPherson, general counsel, Department of the Army. McPherson most recently was executive director of the National Association of Attorneys General. He previously served as general counsel of the Defense Department Counterintelligence Field Activity, and he is a retired Navy rear admiral who was the service’s judge advocate general.

Housing and Urban Development: Leonard Wolfson, assistant secretary. Wolfson has been associate vice president of legislative affairs for the Mortgage Bankers Association, an industry lobbying group. He previously was general assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development for congressional and intergovernmental relations during the George W. Bush administration. During his first stint at HUD, he worked on reforms to the Federal Housing Administration as part of the 2008 Housing and Economic Recovery Act.

Interior: Tara Sweeney, assistant secretary for Indian affairs. Sweeney is executive vice president of external affairs for Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, an Alaska business owned collectively by 13,000 Iñupiat Eskimo members. She served on the Arctic Economic Council from 2015 until 2017, and she was special assistant for rural affairs and education under Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski.

Labor: Patricia Greene, director of the Women’s Bureau. Greene is a former professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College, and she was the founding national academic director for Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses initiative. She previously served on the national advisory board for the Small Business Administration’s small business development centers.

Preston Rutledge, assistant secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration. Rutledge is the senior tax and benefits counsel on the staff of the Senate Finance Committee. He was a senior tax law specialist at the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division of the Internal Revenue Service.

Small Business Administration: Hannibal “Mike” Ware, inspector general. Ware is the acting inspector general for SBA, and he served as the agency’s deputy inspector general since April 2016. He has 27 years of experience working in federal inspector general offices, mostly at the Interior Department.

State: Kenneth Braithwaite, ambassador to Norway. Braithwaite is a 27-year Navy veteran and currently is group senior vice president of Vizient, a health care strategy company. He retired from the Navy in 2011 as the service’s vice chief of information.

Veterans Affairs: Jon Rychalski, chief financial officer. Rychalski is the acting principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs and the deputy assistant secretary for health resources management and policy. He previously was director of financial plans and policy within the Defense Department’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs.

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