By Al Kamen Monday, March 30, 2009; Page A15
The White House is pushing hard to get the Senate to confirm more nominees before Congress heads off Friday for a two-week recess. White House data indicate that the administration has recovered from that little Daschle-Geithner problem and will set the modern world indoor record for the number of nominations and confirmations by March 31.
As of Friday, Team Obama even has more total nominations and confirmations, 104 in all, than the vaunted Reagan personnel juggernaut of the 1980s. But the accompanying chart shows the problem: While the Reagan team had a total of 95 nominations and confirmations, 61 of its candidates had been confirmed by April 1. The Obama folks, barring a miracle, won’t match that.
(Loop Fans will recall that Bush I figures are not really comparable, because there is less urgency to clean house in a friendly GOP-to-GOP takeover. Bush II had a much-shortened transition because of that bothersome Florida recount. And the Clinton transition was a debacle from even before Day One — yet there were almost as many confirmed nominees as Obama has.)
“Obama has clearly caught his stride in announcing and nominating candidates for Senate confirmation,” said Paul Light of New York University. “Now the question is whether the Senate can keep up. The logjam is broken at the White House and has moved up Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Not so, a senior Senate aide said Friday. “All but two nominees who are pending in the Senate arrived here mid-March. It is March 27th,” he said in an e-mail. Democratic committee chairmen “have been moving them as fast as they can once they get here,” he added. “For nominees who have had their hearings and will be reported next week, there is some chance of confirmation if the Republicans” don’t put up any procedural roadblocks. Light agreed that the nominations went up late.
“The vast, vast majority of the Obama nominees were sent up after mid-February,” he said, “but that doesn’t give the Senate an excuse to delay.” And even at that pace, “say 15 or so a week, we’re talking another six to seven months or so to get all 500 Cabinet and sub-Cabinet nominees into the pipeline,” he said.
Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, is leading a group of colleagues — including Democratic Reps. James E. Clyburn (S.C.), Maurice D. Hinchey (N.Y.), John Salazar (Colo.) and Tim Ryan (Ohio) and GOP Rep. Rodney Alexander (La.) — on what looks to be an excellent trip down to Brazil. Most are taking spouses. Unclear whether there are seats available, but this one could be worth trading votes for.
A preliminary schedule called for the group to arrive Saturday. Since it’s the weekend and it’s a long flight, there was beach time scheduled at a fine hotel on Copacabana Beach and then an evening dinner.
On Sunday there’s the visit up Corcovado mountain to the famous Christ the Redeemer statue (this is an obligatory stop so as not to offend the Brazilians) and other sites and then a dinner cruise along the Ipanema-Copacabana beachfront.
But the party’s over on Monday as the lawmakers meet with some Brazilian officials. Dinner is a Brazilian barbecue.
On Tuesday, there’s another obligatory trip, this time to Foz do Iguacu, to see the beautiful Iguazu Falls.
Our intrepid delegation, tired but undaunted, is set to head off Wednesday and Thursday to Salvador, the wonderful colonial-era city with those gorgeous beaches and great seafood.
Unclear when the group returns. (It’s a big country, after all.) Fortunately, as far as we could tell, there’s no stop at the capital, Brasilia, or the major banking and industrial cities such as Sao Paolo and Belo Horizonte. Repeated efforts to reach Pastor to discuss the trip were unsuccessful.
On the other hand, our schedule inexplicably doesn’t seem to include a riverboat trip up the Amazon to the Anavilhanas Ecological Station and then an overnight stay at the stunning Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel, built in the treetops. Well, there’s time still to add it.
The headline in major newspaper El Universal, which apparently broke the story on Thursday during Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s visit there, said: “United States proposes a Cuban as ambassador.” The story said Pascual, who came to this country with his parents, was the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, and was an expert on peacekeeping efforts and working with countries involved in civil disorder. (Some of those countries are called failed states — a term not to be used in referring to Mexico.) He’s now a vice president and director at the Brookings Institution.
Clinton folks declined to confirm or deny the report, telling reporters, including our colleague Mary Beth Sheridan, that it was the White House’s announcement to make.