Sen. Coburn to put hold on OPM director nominee

Wednesday - 7/31/2013, 1:47pm EDT

Jason Miller, executive editor, Federal News Radio

Download mp3

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) plans on placing a hold on the nomination of Katherine Archuleta, the nominee to be the director of Office of Personnel Management.

Coburn said he wants an answer from OPM and the White House on how the Affordable Care Act will apply to lawmakers and their staff.

Coburn said at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs markup and vote of Archuleta's nomination that he was unhappy with the administration's delay in getting the final rule out with only a few months before it's supposed to take effect.

"That decision has been decided and has gone to OMB and back. There is no reason we should vote on this position until we know what the administration's position is on our employees' health insurance starting Oct. 1," he said. "I plan on holding that nomination until we get an answer so we can legislate or do something for the very valuable staff that we have and the stupidity for which we have in the present law a gutting of our own staff because someone was trying to make a political point."

The committee approved Archuleta by a vote of 7-4 with all the Republicans who were at the sessions voting "no" and three others voting "no" by proxy.

Coburn and other Republicans brought up this issue at Archuleta's nomination hearing asking if she knew the status of the final rule. Archuleta said she had not been briefed on the status of the Affordable Care Act regulations.

"Do you think it's a reasonable requirement that members of Congress might want to see that ruling before they vote on your nomination?" Coburn asked at Archuleta's nomination hearing.

Archuleta responded, "Yes sir. I've been asked this question many times. I understand the importance of it."

Emails to OPM seeking comment on the status of the final rule were not returned. An email to the White House asking for a status update on the rule also was not returned.

From the beginning, Archuleta wasn't a shoo-in to make it out committee.

"The Office of Personnel Management is not an easy job. It's largely a thankless task and, as I've had the opportunity to talk with Katherine, I've been impressed with her confidence and her drive," said Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.), the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and of the Federal Workforce, at the nomination vote. "I will tell you this, when she first came into my office and interviewed with me, I was not impressed. But I can tell you in my conversations since and during the hearing, I was very impressed. In this position, and this is a very important position as we all know, I think she will do a fine job. I understand what Sen. Coburn wants and hopefully he will get the information very soon and we can move forward with her nomination and confirmation."

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the committee, echoed Tester's opinion of Archuleta. He said Archuleta didn't impress staff or members at first, but as she warmed up to the role, she garnered the respect and confidence of the committee.

"I know for some people, it's a close call. My inclination is to give her the benefit of the doubt. We have the opportunity to get some more information that Tom is interested in getting before it goes to the floor," he said.

The committee also approved by voice vote the nomination of John Thompson to be the next Census Bureau director.

The committee also approved several bills including:

  • The Improper Payments Agency Cooperation Enhancement Act, which would provide agencies and inspectors general with the tools needed to improve coordination on anti-waste and fraud efforts, and to curb millions of dollars in improper payments to deceased individuals. It would, for the first time, let all federal agencies access to the complete Death Master File database maintained by the Social Security Administration. IPACE will also require all agencies to use this data in order to curb improper payments to dead people.

  • The Federal Real Property Asset Management Reform Act of 2013, which would assist federal agencies in improving the management of federal property by establishing an expedited process through which unneeded federal property can be disposed of more quickly. The legislation also would establish a framework for federal agencies to better manage existing space in a more cost-effective manner.

  • The Security Clearance Oversight and Reform Enhancement Act, which would increase oversight over how the government conducts background investigations and awards security clearances. It would let OPM use its revolving fund to pay for oversight of the security clearance process.

  • The Government Accountability Office Improvement Act, which would clarify and strengthen GAO's legal authority to obtain records from federal agencies, administer oaths during investigations, and gain access to certain types of information that had previously been withheld.
RELATED STORIES:

Archuleta makes case to senators to be next OPM director

Census nominee promises to fundamentally change the decennial count

Tester aims to strengthen OPM's oversight of security clearance process

Senate to mark up real property legislation

Do Not Pay list lacks data as implementation nears