Trump’s Cabinet secretaries wait for White House to fill jobs – Washington Examiner

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A source on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said the White House has not submitted any names to fill the 10 jobs below Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin that will require confirmation.

As President Trump’s Cabinet secretaries settle into their new offices across Washington, they could find their earliest efforts hampered by vacancies stretching several layers down the chain of command at each agency.

Of the 1,212 administration jobs that require Senate confirmation, just 14 were successfully filled during the first month of Trump’s presidency. Those gains were limited to the Cabinet level; the Trump team must navigate the same complicated confirmation process to fill hundreds of deputy and assistant secretary slots, general counsel offices, director posts and ambassadorships, according to the Center for Presidential Transition.

Altogether, Trump has more than 4,000 jobs to fill with appointees before the administration will be fully staffed by his own people.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said shortly before the inauguration that the Trump team planned to leave in place more than 50 Obama appointees while the new administration took shape.

But Trump is still waiting on some of his highest-level appointments to make it through the Senate. Ben Carson, Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Trump’s secretary of energy nominee, are among the handful of top officials still waiting to receive an up-or-down vote from the full Senate.

Other top picks are even further behind. Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Trump’s nominee for secretary of agriculture, has not yet submitted his paperwork to the Senate Agriculture Committee, preventing the committee from setting a date for his confirmation hearing, a Senate aide told the Washington Examiner.

And Trump’s labor secretary nominee, Alexander Acosta, had to start the confirmation process from scratch after the president’s original Department of Labor pick, Andy Puzder, withdrew from contention amid wavering Republican support.

The White House has yet to nominate officials for dozens of key positions directly below the Cabinet level. That has left Senate committees unable to prepare for future battles over the nominees who will assume important roles at federal agencies.

For example, a source on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said the White House has not submitted any names to fill the 10 jobs below Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin that will require confirmation. White House officials have not provided any guidance about when they might tackle those nominations, the source said.

Trump to drop federal challenge of Texas voter ID law

Trump to drop federal challenge of Texas voter ID law

The Trump administration will not continue that fight under the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Another Senate source noted the White House has nominated three people for jobs just below Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Justice Department — Rod Rosenstein for deputy attorney general, Rachel Brand for associate attorney general and Steven Engel for head of the Office of Legal Counsel — but said no hearings had been set for any of those nominees. The vetting process has begun for all three, the Senate Judiciary Committee source said.

While a handful of Obama administration appointees did stay on at the State Department, including Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter the Islamic State, most were swept out with the previous administration.

“As is standard with every transition, the outgoing administration, in coordination with the incoming one, requested all politically appointed officers submit letters of resignation,” a State Department spokesman said. “Of the officers whose resignations were accepted, some will continue in the Foreign Service in other positions, and others will retire by choice or because they have exceeded the time limits of their grade in service.”

Several high-level resignations, such as Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr and Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond, caught headlines during the first week of Trump’s presidency when reporters initially characterized the departures as resignations in protest and not routine turnover.

Grant Reeher, a political science professor at Syracuse University, said the quality of political appointees below the Cabinet level can have a dramatic effect on how administration policies are ultimately executed.

White House: Russian cyber activity has been investigated 'up and down'

White House: Russian cyber activity has been investigated ‘up and down’

White House press secretary Sean Spicer dodged questions on Monday about the need for a special prosecutor to probe Russia’s cyber activity, saying the issue has already been investigated “up and down.”

“A special prosecutor for what?” Spicer responded when asked if Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a popular surrogate for President Trump’s campaign, should recuse himself from an investigation into Russia.

“We have now for six months heard story after story come out about unnnamed sources saying the same thing over and over again. We’ve heard the same people, the same anecdotes. So at one point, you have to ask yourself what are you investigating?” he said.

“Do they affect the operation of government? The short answer is very much,” Reeher said. “These are the folks who actually attempt to implement the policy changes that the administration is trying to push down from above.”

Reeher said the relationships between politically appointed officials in top positions and the career bureaucrats who make up the rest of the federal government are “critical” for ensuring policies get put in place smoothly.

“If these lower appointments are not being thoroughly vetted for subject expertise and management savvy, if the appointments become bottle-necked for a long period of time, if the filling of the positions becomes rushed — any of these conditions could create some real problems for successful change, agency morale and ultimately effective government,” Reeher said.

The White House has rebuffed suggestions that the selection process is moving slowly, and denied reports that Cabinet secretaries have been barred from choosing their own teams. Spicer said Wednesday that White House officials have paid particular attention to positions that deal with policies dear to the president, arguing that those appointees should hold views identical to Trump’s.

“In certain cases, if they’re going to fulfill a job that is a key area that the president had very specific goals to enact that he promised the American people, you want to make sure that the person that is fulfilling that job actually is committed to the agenda and the vision that the president set forth and promised the American people,” Spicer said.

He described the appointment process as “methodical,” and suggested last week that the administration had a number of appointments in the pipeline.

“They’re called political appointees for a reason,” Spicer said, later dismissing questions about whether Cabinet secretaries have met resistance from the White House when trying to bring in their own teams.

“Cabinet secretaries and other administrators and directors have broad discretion,” Spicer said. “It’s not a question of trust. It’s a question of just making sure that we are all on the same page and committed to the same agenda that the president set forth.”

A disconnect between Trump and a potential appointee has already kept one former Bush administration official from receiving a nomination to serve as second-in-command to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Elliott Abrams, Bush’s former deputy national security adviser, was reportedly removed from contention for a high-level State Department job due to his criticism of Trump during the campaign.



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