Senators in both parties last week expressed concerns about OPM director nominee John Gibbs’ fitness for the position in light of Twitter posts that were Islamophobic, anti-LGBT and endorsing debunked satanic conspiracy theories.
A Senate panel on Wednesday postponed a vote on whether to recommend John Gibbs be confirmed as director of the Office of Personnel Management, citing the need for more information from the nominee.
“Although we noticed the nomination of John Gibbs to be director of the Office of Personnel Management, we’re going to hold over ... his nomination, because some of our members would like to request some additional information from the nominee,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Gibbs spent much of his confirmation hearing last week deflecting questions about tweets he posted in 2016 that accused the leadership of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign of performing satanic rituals and calling the Democratic party the party of “Islam” and “gender-bending.” He also endorsed the idea that new hires to the federal government should be “loyal” to President Trump.
At the hearing, Gibbs declined to apologize for his posts, saying that he only regretted “that it’s unfortunately become an issue.” The nominee, who currently serves as acting assistant secretary for community planning and development at the Housing and Urban Development Department, said that since joining the federal government, he has managed employees in a “nonpartisan” manner.
On Tuesday, multiple federal employee groups officially announced their opposition to Gibbs’ confirmation. In a letter to the committee, National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon said Gibbs “lacks the experience” to lead the federal government’s top human resources office.
“His well-documented history of making inflammatory remarks that, at best, demonstrate an insensitivity to individuals of different backgrounds and faiths raise serious concerns about his ability to lead the federal civil service,” Reardon said. “Furthermore, his tweets regarding new hires being loyal to the president only underscores concerns about his ability to adhere to the merit systems principles; protect employees from retaliation for disclosing waste, fraud and abuse; and ensure that other federal agencies do so as well.”
And Robert Corsi, interim president of the Senior Executives Association, wrote in a letter to the committee that Gibbs’ focus on improving federal agencies’ time to hire metrics, retirement processing and IT modernization fall short of the transformational changes envisioned by a recent study by the organization. Corsi also expressed concerns about Gibbs’ commitment to merit systems principles.
“OPM is a critical central government agency responsible for human capital policies affecting over 2 million active employees, and millions of additional beneficiaries and annuitants,” Corsi wrote. “The agency also plays a critical statutorily-defined role upholding the merit principles, and Mr. Gibbs’ prior comments regarding the merit system are deeply troubling and cannot be discounted nor ignored.”
The committee did advance Trump’s three nominees to the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which administers the Thrift Savings Plan. Christopher Burnham and Frank Dunlevy were recommended by a unanimous voice vote, while John Barger advanced by a vote of 8-3.
Barger’s nomination was more controversial than that of his colleagues due to his service as a member of the Postal Board of Governors, which has been under heavy scrutiny from Democrats in recent weeks as Americans have reported slowdowns in service following the appointment of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
“[At a recent Senate hearing], I asked Mr. DeJoy to provide to the committee any transcripts or minutes of all closed or nonpublic meetings this year, so the American people can better understand the rationale behind policy decisions that have adversely impacted mail delivery, but he has yet to respond to my requests,” said Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev. “At his nomination hearing, I asked Mr. Barger to provide the same documents, and he said he would raise the issue, but he has yet to respond to my request . . . Whether a member of the Postal Board of Governors or the FRTIB, I expect transparency, and so do to the American people, and due to a lack of compliance with my requests, I cannot support this nominee.”