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Eye Opener: Mid-Level Nominees Get Hearings

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Tuesday! If you need proof that the presidential transition is nowhere near over, consider today's Senate committee schedule, which is packed with confirmation hearings for mid-level political appointees:

Veterans Affairs votes on the assistant secretary nominations of Roger Baker, Jose Riojas and John Sepulveda and William Gunn to be general counsel. Armed Services considers Andrew Weber, Paul Stockton and Thomas Lamont to serve as DOD assistant secretaries and Charles Blanchard to serve as the Department of the Air Force's general counsel. Environment and Public Works holds a hearing for Peter Silva and Stephen Owens to serve as assistant administrators and Jo-Ellen Darcy to serve as an assistant secretary of the Army for civil works. Foreign Relations votes on the nomination of Harold Koh to be State's legal adviser. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Commitee considers Cass Sunstein's nomination to serve as administrator of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Judiciary holds a hearing on Mary Smith to be assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Tax Division. Click on the names above for their biographies and the progress of their nominations, as compiled by The Washington Post's Head Count. It's likely the nominees listed above could get final Senate confirmation on Mondays, since Majority Leader Harry Reid says he plans to force votes to end a logjam on certain nominees.

Cabinet and Staff News: Among those already confirmed, Gary Locke speaks today at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Summit. Ray LaHood gives a speech a the National Retail Federation 74th Annual Washington Leadership Conference. Robert Gates shakes things up in Afghanistan. Is Jim Jones the new Rumsfeld? Timothy Geithner, Kathleen Sebelius, Hilda Solis and Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue meet today to discuss the financial situation of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds. View an audio/picture profile of White House health care adviser Nancy DeParle.

Jeffrey Zients Profiled: Federal Times' Elise Castelli reviews the OMB nominee's record at the Advisory Board and finds that if his past is any signal of his plans, "agencies can expect him to conduct a lot of research on how agencies operate and use that research to craft tailored approaches to performance improvements."

OPM Moves to Revoke Bush Proposal for Faster Promotions: Federal Times' Stephen Losey reports that OPM will revoke a Bush administration recommendation to eliminate the so-called time-in-grade requirement amid union opposition to it.

U.S. Clears the Way for Antitrust Crackdown: Christine Varney, head of the antitrust division at the Justice Department, announced that the agency would revoke a 2008 report that made it difficult to pursue antitrust cases against corporations, according to The Post's Cecilia Kang.

E.P.A. to Oversee Coal Ash Cleanup in Tennessee: So far, the E.P.A. has been assisting state regulators with the cleanup of 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash that spilled Dec. 22 from a retention pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant, according to the AP.

Digital TV Transition May Get Early Test: One approach under consideration, as the June 12 digital TV transition day approaches, is a nationwide flip of the switch, slated for May 21, reports The Post's Mike Musgrove.

FAA Says No to Flight of Small Navy Plane Over Manhattan: You really think they'd let another government agency attempt what the White House failed to do?

U.S. Judge in Texas Sentenced in Sex Abuse Case The AP reports that a federal judge was sentenced Monday to nearly three years in prison for lying to investigators about sexually abusing two female employees, who said they feared him so much that they hid from him in the courthouse.

FDA Reviewing Approval of Knee Device: WSJ's Alicia Mundy reports the agency will review its decision to approve a knee surgery device last December over the objections of several scientists and managers at the agency.

Technology Limits Hamper SEC Enforcement Efforts: A GAO report released last week concluded that outdated IT systems at the agency limited the effectiveness of the its enforcement division, reports NextGov's Gautham Nagesh.

HHS: Guidance on Health IT Switch Expected in Summer: The national health IT coordinator says his team is very aware of deadlines imposed by Congress and wants to give health providers the best possible chance to cash in on about $17 billion in Medicare and Medicaid incentives, according to Andrew Noyes of CongressDaily.

Obama Team Outlines Management Agenda: Gov Exec's Elizabeth Newell reports that the president's management agenda will be based on six themes aimed at "building a high-performing government."

Research-Based Evaluations of Agency Performance Coming Soon: Tied to what Newell reports above, Castelli reports (again) for Federal Times that the administration will drop the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), the Bush-era grading system for measuring agency performance, according to the 2010 budget proposal.

Despite Stimulus Funds, States to Cut More Jobs: The layoffs are one early indication of how the stimulus funding could be coming up short against the economic downturn, reports The Post's Alec MacGillis.

States Going it Alone on Food Safety: They're frustrated by Washington's response to the recent spate of food-borne illnesses, reports WSJ's Jane Zhang.

Tougher Smoking Policy Puts Union in Tight Spot: GSA plans to ban smoking at all of its facilities in June. An FCC building in Columbia, Md. wants to do the same, but faces negotiations with the NTEU union, according to The Post's Joe Davidson.

Must-Listen: OPM Director John Berry joins Mike Causey for a full hour on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Federal News Radio. More events here.

By Ed O'Keefe  | May 12, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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