OMB No. 2 Nominee Pledges to Restore Morale in the Federal Workforce
"Often in these budget deals that come up, one of the main losers are federal workers," said Shalanda Young.
President Biden’s nominee to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget promised on Tuesday that if she is confirmed, she will make restoring morale in the federal workforce a priority.
Shalanda Young testified before the Senate Budget Committee for her first of two confirmation hearings. She was a professional staff member on the House Appropriations Committee for nine years and then served as the Democratic deputy director for the committee and then director. With Neera Tanden’s path to confirmation to be OMB director in limbo Young is widely speculated to be the alternative.
“I started my career as a civil servant at [the National Institutes of Health]. I understand how much more this country has benefited by having a motivated federal workforce who shows up every day [and] goes over and beyond,” said Young, in response to a question from Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., whose state has a large concentration of federal employees. “They could be in private industry, a lot of them, making more than they do in their government service. So it's not about a job for the federal workers that I’ve known and worked with. It’s about service.”
Therefore, if confirmed, she said one of the things she hopes to do “certainly within OMB, is to empower and bring a lot of that back to career staff.” She said she would aim “to let them know that we appreciate their service, we trust that they are good stewards of federal policy.” Federal employees will need congressional support on certain initiatives, she added.
OMB had about 466 full-time employees in fiscal 2019 and its workforce develops the president’s budget request; oversees agencies’ performance, procurement, financial management and information technology; and coordinates federal rulemaking.
“Often in these budget deals that come up, one of the main losers are federal workers,” Young said. “We tend to cut their retirement, we tend to do things that don’t I think do a lot for morale, so you certainly have my commitment to work with you to bring back some of the things that have eroded over the last few years.”
Similarly, Pam Coleman, associate director for performance management at OMB, said at an event on Monday that the Biden administration is committed to re-empowering and rebuilding the workforce after the “damage” done in recent years.
Young also committed to being responsive to Congress for information requests and working with both parties on COVID-19 relief and other work. She also vowed to work with the Government Accountability Office. “We should listen to them when they make those, I think, very thoughtful judgments,” she said, on the watchdog. This was in response to a question from Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., in which he referenced that the Trump administration disagreed with GAO’s findings that OMB violated the Impoundment Control Act by withholding aid to Ukraine for policy reasons.
On regulatory reform, Young––noting she was reiterating what Tanden said during her confirmation hearings––said “we must do cost-benefit analysis of regulations,” a much-debated step in the rulemaking progress. Biden’s new regulatory review memo “is tasking us with finding a way to make sure we don’t leave certain Americans behind,” such those with disabilities, rural populations and people of color.
Sen. Jeff Merkely, D-Ore., asked Young about the issue in previous administrations of rules going to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a division of OMB, “to suffer and die with no transparency about what is happening.” Young said that isn’t the goal of the agency.
“I do believe we can use the presidential memo calling for OMB to lead the effort to improve and modernize to do something about that perception and work with our partners in Congress to make sure that we fix this issue,” she added.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in introducing Young, noted that she played a big role in helping to end the partial government shutdown in 2018-2019, which was the longest in U.S. history, as “she knows how to work across the aisle to get a deal done” and has “knowledge of a vast range of federal programs.” Young was also working for the House Appropriations Committee during the October 2013 and January 2018 shutdowns.
A few Republican senators referenced that she could wind up being the nominee director, but Young reiterated she was there as the nominee for the deputy position.
Several senators (including one Democrat) already have said they won't vote for Tanden and the Senate committees that must advance her nomination before she can receive a vote in the full chamber postponed their votes last week. The opposition is largely about her partisan history and tweets critical of lawmakers that she deleted before getting nominated. This has raised questions about whether she’s facing a double standard as a woman of color.
The White House has been unwavering in its support for Tanden. “She is somebody who has decades of experience. She is qualified,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a briefing on Monday. “She is prepared to lead the budget team. And we're continuing, of course, to fight for the confirmation of every nominee that the president puts forward. We'll see if we have 50 votes. That's part of the journey. That's part of democracy in action.”
Young said Tanden has an “expansive knowledge of various policy areas” and “we both bring some skill sets in different areas where we’d make a good team.”
Meanwhile, top members of the Congressional Black Caucus are lobbying for Young to be nominated for director, and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, endorsed her, The Hill reported. She would be the first Black female director of OMB, if confirmed.
Nevertheless, the confirmation process for Young to be deputy director continues. She will testify next before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday, along with Jason Miller, nominee to be OMB deputy director for management.