DorobekInsider: What’s the deal with GSA administrator nominee Johnson? The Kansas City Star finds out

Sunday - 8/23/2009, 10:42pm EDT

One of the key Obama administration posts still vacant is the role of GSA administrator. Of course, Martha Johnson was nominated in April, and she made it through the Senate committee in June, but her nomination has been… on hold… literally.

There have been several stories flying around — one was that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had actually pulled her name off the nomination list because, as the story goes, GSA had told agencies that the government could not travel to Las Vegas in Reid’s home state. In fact, the WSJ had this report on July 22:

Government Meeting? Stay Away From Fun City

What do Reno, Orlando and Las Vegas have in common? To some pockets of the federal government, they just seem like too much fun.

Instead, employees at some big agencies, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are being encouraged to host meetings in more buttoned-down places such as St. Louis, Milwaukee or Denver….

Earlier this month, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the chamber’s majority leader, expressed concern to the White House about a prohibition on government travel to resort destinations. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel wrote back saying that government travel “is not focused on specific destinations,” but on cost and efficiency.

The General Services Administration, which sets the amount government employees can spend per day at each destination, has no ban on locations.

But some agencies appear to be instituting their own guidelines that dictate where events should be held.

According to an Agriculture Department employee familiar with the guidelines, the agency issued internal travel guidelines in the spring that encourage employees to hold meetings in cities that display three key attributes: a travel hub; low in cost; and “a non-resort location.” The employee said cities on the list with those three attributes included Chicago; Denver; Portland, Ore.; St. Louis; Washington, D.C.; Milwaukee; Phoenix and Fort Collins, Colo.

Resort locations aren’t banned, “but you have to provide robust justification” to supervisors for approval to hold an event there, the employee said.

Read the full story here.

Apparently there never was a ban on travel to the hurting Las Vegas — although there is a lot of mis-information out there about travel.

But it appears that the hold on Johnson’s nomination is by Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO), as reported Friday by the Kansas City Star:

Bond blocks GSA nominee in action tied to downtown KC federal building

By KEVIN COLLISON
The Kansas City Star

Posted on Fri, Aug. 21, 2009

Sen. Kit Bond is blocking approval of the president’s choice to lead the General Services Administration, adding pressure on Washington to approve a proposed downtown federal office building.

Bond, who has been a leader in the effort to build the estimated $175 million project since it was first proposed in 2006, has placed a hold on the appointment of Martha Johnson.

Johnson, a former GSA chief of staff, was recommended for the post by President Barack Obama in April and was endorsed by the Senate Government Affairs Committee in June.

The GSA acts as the federal government’s landlord and also buys goods and services for federal agencies.

Bond could not be reached for comment Friday, but an aide confirmed his decision to block Johnson’s appointment.

Read the full story here.

Of course, it still is a bit remarkable that senators can put holds on nominations without having to be up front about it.

We’ll continue to track the story. One can assume that this will get resolved soon — one way or another.