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Eye Opener: Feb. 4, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Wednesday! Today First Lady Michelle Obama continues her tour of the federal bureaucracy by visiting the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Eye will be there to keep watch and you can follow live updates of the visit on The Eye's Twitter feed.

Know of any big moves into or out of the Obama administration? Send your news tips to

President Obama has set a new record, for appointing more members of the opposing party to his cabinet than any other modern president. He has of course also suffered the highest number of nominee withdrawals.

You can add Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer to a list that already included Bill Richardson. It's not yet clear who will replace the two latest departures. And it could be quite awkward for Daschle's replacement, since President Obama told ABC last night that "I think Tom Daschle would have been the best person to help shepherd through a health-care bill through a very difficult process in Congress." Talk about tough act to follow.

Democrats close to the White House tell The Post that they are now at a loss for who will fill the void, given that Daschle was the only real contender contemplated by the president.

"There were no other names," said one administration ally who was not permitted to speak on the record about the Daschle saga.

As for Killefer, the president may also have difficulty identifying someone with an equally impressive mix of public and private-sector experience.

"Unfortunately there are all too few people with great management experience in both the public and private sectors," said Partnership for Public Service president and CEO Max Stier. "You can find great candidates in different packages, but it's certainly very appealing to have someone with experience in both sectors."

In a glimmer of encouragement for people fed up with the old ways of Washington, some suggest the whole episode signals change really is coming.

"I think it's possible this is some sort of bridge between an old Washington and the new Washington," David Arkush told The Post.

In other news...

House Votes on DTV Delay Today: "Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) asked the House Rules Committee to grant a "closed rule" for the bill, which would limit debate to one hour and would not allow amendments to be added." Waxman got his wish last night, which boosts the bill's chance of passing smoothly, even thought Republicans could try sending the bill back to committee, again drawing out the process.

Gregg to Lead Commcerce: Oh yeah, forgot about that. Political analysts describe Gregg as an old school Yankee conservative who is most passionate about fiscal issues. And the best part about him? "In 2005, Gregg matched five of six Powerball numbers on a lottery ticket purchased in the District, winning $853,492." Some guys just have all the luck...

Democrats Pen Principles for Climate-Change Bills: A new set of principles penned by Senate Democrats will guide efforts to craft legislation aimed at slowing global warming. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said "We are very pleased to see Congress moving quickly on legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions. We will be working closely with the Hill in the weeks and months ahead to address this tremendous challenge and opportunity."

Salazar Says No Impropriety in Parks Funding: The Interior Secretary calls reports that funding for the National Park Service in the House version of the stimulus bill was improperly influenced by a lobbyist related to a top Democratic congressman, "nonsense." He tells USA Today that the park service could spend the money quickly enough to help the economy. Any projects funded by the stimulus will have the goal of "putting people to work." Republicans are skeptical the department could spend so much money so quickly.

Whistleblower Assails SEC: The AP reports that Harry Markopolos, "who tried to alert regulators to problems in the operations of now-disgraced financier Bernard Madoff is assailing the Securities and Exchange Commission for ignoring his warnings and saying he feared for his physical safety." He appears before a House subcommittee later today to talk publicly for the first time about his efforts.

State Dept. Recruiting for Civilian Response Corps: It's a new response corps to assist in post-conflict situations abroad, according to Government Executive. Ambassador John Herbst, coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization, said State "has begun recruiting federal workers to serve in the active and reserve components of the Civilian Response Corps. The corps will comprise 250 active-duty, 2,000 standby and 2,000 reserve personnel in fields such as public health, law enforcement, engineering, economics, law and public administration, he said."

Army Offering Civilian Workers More Training: "The Army Civilian University, established last year with a mission to integrate the Army's civilian training, took its first major step last week by assuming oversight of Army Management Staff College, the service's top school for civilian leadership and management education at Fort Belvoir, in Northern Virginia," "The demands on the Army from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have meant that many officers and soldiers assigned in the past to office work have been pressed into service overseas. The civilian workforce has had to pick up the slack."

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 4, 2009; 7:55 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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