The head of the Government Printing Office is out of a job — and he says he doesn’t know why.
Nobody on Capitol Hill or at the White House has told William Boarman why senators didn’t vote to confirm him before they left town over the weekend. President Obama granted Boarman a recess appointment earlier this year, after an April 2010 nomination to lead the agency responsible for printing government documents, training manuals, passports and maps.
By law, recess appointees not confirmed by the end of the next Senate term must step down. In November, two GOP senators dropped a hold on Boarman’s nomination and seemingly assured his eventual confirmation. But Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said late Saturday that fresh concerns with the nomination meant it wouldn’t happen.
Boarman said he’s awaiting further instructions, but expects to be out of a job by year’s end.
“I don’t know of anybody that’s opposed to me. It’s really a strange situation,” he said in an interview Sunday afternoon. “I’m very disappointed, but I’m honored that the president chose me and we were able to make some changes at the agency.”
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who pushed for Boarman’s confirmation, blasted Senate Republicans for blocking a vote.
“It is appalling when you get a public servant who cares about this government, in a nonpolitical place, the Government Printing Office, who has done an excellent job by all accounts — cutting costs, what we on both sides of the aisle want — and he gets held up,” Schumer said Saturday. “Instead of getting held up he should get an award for the job he has done. Yet he is held up and caught in the politics once again.”
A former senior vice president with the Communications Workers of America, Boarman admitted shortly after his nomination that he had received about $3,000 in payments from GPO despite being on official leave from the agency since the late 1970s to serve in a series of union leadership positions. He said he promptly repaid the money after the agency acknowledged “administrative errors” and that all concerns associated with the payments had been resolved.
White House officials and aides to Reid and Schumer didn’t return requests for comment Sunday on the basis of the new objections to Boarman. Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said Republicans were ready to vote on a series of nominees Saturday, but the White House didn’t assure them that Obama wouldn’t issue new recess appointments over the holidays.
“This is the worst it gets in Washington,” Boarman said. “You can be on hold for 20 months and get held up for no reason.”
“I’ve got nothing but good comments from everyone — Democrats and Republicans — about my leadership,” he said. “This was really a total surprise for me. I knew that these things happen, these holds happen, but I clearly thought I’d be confirmed.”
Boarman said he feared the fate he suffered could deter others from stepping forward to take similar political positions in the future. Even before a formal nomination, “You have to open your whole life up,” he said. “I had the FBI look at everything I’ve done since I had my First Communion — and I’m 65.”
“I think that if this kind of thing becomes the norm — and the story gets out that this is what’s going to happen to you — I think many Americans would agree not to serve,” he said. “I think the president should be able to get whoever he wants as long as he’s qualified.”
Boarman said he is most proud of helping GPO turn a profit for the first time in years. Under his watch, the agency began recouping about $30 million in unpaid fees from other federal agencies, initiated employee buyouts that targeted 330 jobs, and surveyed congressional offices for the first time to determine their true printing needs.
“I think Congress is going to move towards a paperless workload, but I think it’s five, six years down the road and we were helping them get there,” Boarman said. “We were being proactive.”
As for his own future, Boarman said he’s leaving public service with no regrets and no bitterness.
“I’ve lived in Washington all my life,” he said. “Politics is tough, I’ll get over this. It’s just one facet that was extremely disappointing.”
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