Obama Cabinet is almost full

Al Kamen
Columnist March 11, 2013

It’s looking as if President Obama is finishing up stocking his second-term Cabinet.

Tom Perez , assistant attorney general for civil rights, is the expected pick to lead the Labor Department, which leaves only four Cabinet or Cabinet-rank spots left open: commerce secretary, transportation secretary, U.S. trade representative and Small Business Administration chief.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Here’s a snapshot of the remaining openings and some possible fillers.

●Commerce: Obama mega-donor and businesswoman Penny Pritzker is said to be a top candidate.

●Transportation: Debbie Hersman, who chairs the National Transportation Safety Board, is among the names most mentioned.

●USTR: Jeff Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, is a likely choice, but we hear there are others in the mix.

●SBA: One intriguing name we’ve heard is Regina Smith, director of the Harlem Business Alliance, whose work supporting small businesses snagged the White House’s attention.

An interesting side note: When folks began contemplating second-term picks, it seemed that former Washington governor Chris Gregoire was a possible candidate for nearly every job. At this point, the only slot she’s still even being talked about for is transportation secretary.

If she doesn’t get that, she might end up with the Susan Lucci Award. For years, as you may recall, the soap opera star was always nominee, never a winner.

A seat at the table

Another point about the president’s second-term Cabinet picks so far: They’re all white. And guess who’s none too happy about that. That would be the Congressional Black Caucus.

The caucus’s chair, Rep. Marcia Fudge , wrote to the White House on Monday to say she is disappointed in the choices to date.

“You have publicly expressed your commitment to retaining diversity within your cabinet,” she wrote. “However, the people you have chosen to appoint in this new term have hardly been reflective of this country’s diversity.”

Since the first Obama term, diversity among the Cabinet has taken a hit, with two of the four black members, both Hispanic members and one of two Asian Americans leaving the administration, and a dwindling number of spots to fill. (Though with the choice of Perez for labor secretary, there will be at least one Hispanic on board).

Fudge notes that black voters “overwhelmingly” voted for Obama, hinting that he should ensure that their voices are heard — specifically around the president’s conference table.

And in an echo of Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment, Fudge noted that the CBC has long been offering the administration the names of qualified black candidates for Cabinet posts and other top jobs. “I am disappointed none have received the consideration they deserve,” Fudge wrote.

The White House responded with a statement that read, in part: “The President is deeply committed to diversity in his cabinet and ensuring his Administration reflects the breadth of our country.”

The less-great outdoors

Attention, campers, grazers, student summer-job seekers and drillers! The Great Sequester may crimp your summer plans.

The Bureau of Land Management has clamped a freeze on all hiring, with the exception of seasonal firefighters, and it won’t be filling many existing job vacancies.

This means, according to a March 7 memo to all employees from Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze, that “many campgrounds and visitor facilities will close or will operate at reduced capacity.” And processing of leases “for oil and gas, coal, solar, wind and geothermal energy will be diminished.”

College students and others looking for summer jobs helping visitors and such are likely to be out of luck.

What’s more, Kornze said, there may be glitches in granting “drilling permits, rights-of-way, recreation and grazing permits and timber sales.”

There’s a “travel ban for all but essential travel,” which the memo says “includes ONLY the following: travel that is critical for health and safety and travel that is determined to be mission critical.” (Hmm . . . might not include your trip to that land-use conference in Rio.)

And, despite your First Amendment right to peaceable assembly, “large gatherings are canceled.” So don’t loiter by the water cooler.

The good news is no furloughs. Well, “at this time.”

Finding a home

Loop Fans may remember our report a year ago that the Obama administration had penciled in Brett McGurk, a talented aide on the Bush II National Security Council staff and then a special adviser to President Obama, to be the next ambassador to Iraq.

But the eventual nomination stalled in the Senate and McGurk withdrew three months later — after news reports revealed a racy e-mail exchange that he had in 2008 with a Wall Street Journal reporter when both were working in Baghdad. (The couple later married.)

McGurk has been serving as a senior Iraq adviser at the State Department since then. Now, foreign policy blogger Laura Rozen reports, McGurk is likely to be named deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran.

A good job — and no Senate confirmation required.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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