Senate approves Archuleta to head OPM

Wednesday - 10/30/2013, 6:56pm EDT

(This story was updated on Oct. 31, 2013 at 8:10 a.m. to include a statement from the press secretary of the White House).

The Senate Wednesday evening approved Katherine Archuleta to head the Office of Personnel Management.

The 62-35 vote comes more than five months after President Barack Obama nominated the former Labor Department chief of staff to serve as the next head of the agency.

Archuleta also worked as the political director of Obama's reelection campaign effort in 2012 and in the Transportation Department during the Clinton administration.

No word yet on when Archuleta will officially take over at the agency. Federal News Radio has requested comment from OPM.

The press secretary of the White House issued a statement on Archuleta's confirmation.

"The president applauds the Senate for confirming today Katherine Archuleta to be the next Director of the Office of Personnel Management. Katherine brings broad experience and a deep commitment to recruiting and retaining a world- class workforce for the American people. She is an established advocate for public service and federal workers. Katherine shares President Obama's vision for diversity and inclusion in the federal workforce and she will be a champion for federal workers — the dedicated men and women who are devoted to public service."

Elaine Kaplan, the agency's general counsel, had been serving as acting OPM Director since April when John Berry announced he was stepping down after four years on the job. Berry has since been nominated and confirmed to be the ambassador to Australia. In September, the Senate confirmed Kaplan's nomination to serve on the Court of Federal Claims.

At her confirmation hearing in July, Archuleta faced tough questions from lawmakers about how she planned to implement OPM's role in the Affordable Care Act. The law calls for the federal human-resources agency to manage a program that assures at least two "multi-state plans" are offered on each state's exchange to boost competition in the state insurance marketplaces.

Archuleta's nomination also fell victim to a short-lived hold in August after Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) announced he would block a vote on her nomination until the Obama administration detailed how the health care law would affect lawmakers and their staff. Coburn lifted the hold after OPM issued final regulations clarifying that lawmakers and their staffs would be required to purchase health insurance via the exchanges.

Among the many issues on Archuleta's plate are OPM is improving the morale of federal workers that has been battered by sequestration-related furloughs and a three-year pay freeze.

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